Why I Scan

In a nutshell, I’m nosy! Hey, I try to be as honest as I can and it is what it is. My mom told me I was the nosiest baby she had ever seen! I guess some things never change. I like knowing what’s going on around me and listening to my scanner radios are one of the best ways to stay informed.

Scanning is like anything else. Some people will find it boring and not understand why people like me spend hours listening to scanners every day. I’m very lucky since I am able to work at home and I am able to keep my scanners on all day while I work. I probably listen to my scanners for an average of 10 hours a day at least. If there’s something going on around here, you can be pretty sure I know about it.

The “nosy” factor is a big one for a lot of people who like to listen to scanners – myself included of course. But, as I’ve discussed before, there are other reasons to listen. I often hear severe weather alerts where I live because the local sheriff’s office broadcasts them. Sure, anyone watching TV will also see those alerts, but I don’t watch any TV during the day. Period. I watch for a couple of hours in the evening, but that’s about it for me.

Listening to a scanner will also give you access to incidents faster than any “breaking news” story from the television, radio or internet since you are hearing the emergency calls going out to the first responders directly. If it’s something that could potentially endanger you or your family, getting that information as quickly as possible is pretty important.

So what kinds of things have I been hearing lately? Well, even though I live in a pretty rural area that is normally very quiet, things have been kind of busy around the neighborhood lately. A month or so ago there was a fire in a home just up the street. I heard the call as it went out to the local volunteer fire department. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the fire department got it under control pretty quickly so it did not turn into a major fire.

Just a couple of weeks ago another fire broke out in the neighborhood. This one was a lot closer. I heard the call on my scanner and we could see the lights from the fire trucks across the field and through some woods. Once again, it was fortunate that there were no injuries and this blaze was also handled quickly by the fire department and it appears that smoke and water damage were the worst part of it for the homeowners.

Just a couple of days ago I was working in my garage and I heard sirens that were quite close. We live well off the road so it was not possible for me to see if the emergency vehicles were on our street, but it sounded like it. I stepped inside the house to listen to my scanners for a minute and sure enough, the local ambulance service and fire department has been dispatched to a house right across the street from us for a young man who had an accident with a power tool. From listening to the emergency personnel on the scene, it did not sound like it was a particularly bad injury, so I believe the young man was pretty lucky when you consider how much damage power tools can do.

I always keep especially alert to police calls that indicate that a bad guy could be lose in my neighborhood. This is a very rare occurrence around here, but it has happened. If someone dangerous is running around my neighborhood looking for a place to hide from the cops, I surely want to know about it! I don’t want to find out the hard way by spotting the guy in my yard or trying to get into my house!

Around here the local news station doesn’t even have a helicopter and you don’t see “breaking news” stories regarding manhunts unless it is something really big, so listening to my scanners will be the only way I will be alerted to the presence of a fugitive in my neighborhood while it’s still possible to do something about it. Like making sure the doors and windows are locked!

Even though I’m a pretty dedicated scanner hobbyist, I limit my listening to the goings-on in my area. Some scanner listeners like to load up as many frequencies as they can and try to listen to just about everything within listening range and that’s fine, but for me I just find that I miss too much traffic when I try to listen to too many different agencies at once.

There are some regional police frequencies I listen to that connect police agencies over a large area but those frequencies aren’t all that busy and it gives me the benefit of a heads up when a major incident is going on somewhere in the region. I can then decide if I want to dial in the local agencies in that area and listen to what’s happening.

In some areas there are even what’s known as “notification networks.” I believe these networks started out as “fire buff” groups that decided to set up radio networks that allow them to notify their members when there is a fire in the area. Some of the members are people on the news business while others may simply be people who like to go and watch firefighters in action.

These notification groups typically pool their resources and rent the use of local repeaters so they can broadcast alerts to their members and even provide on-scene updates from the scene of an incident for other members. Although the primary interest of these notification groups seem to be fires, they also broadcast other incidents like major traffic accidents, police incidents and weather alerts. Although I have no interest in fires that are not in my immediate area, I do listen to the notification networks in my area because I know they will be alerting their members to any major incidents in the region.

As you can see, there is a lot more to listen to with a scanner radio beyond your local police, fire and EMS agencies. Some scanner listeners are very specific in their interests, for example, NASCAR fans are well-known to have many scanner listeners among them who like to take portable scanners to racing events so they can listen to the conversations between the drivers and their crews.

Other scanner listeners are aviation buffs who listen to aircraft zipping though the skies. Due to their altitude, it is often possible to hear aircraft over great distances, even up to a hundred miles or more depending on how high they are flying.

Railroad enthusiasts are another group that seem to have a lot of scanner users in their ranks. I’ve only listened to radio traffic from trains once or twice myself, so I don’t really understand that niche at all. But hey, to each his own and if they enjoy listening to, photographing or just looking at trains, more power to them!

For those that live in close proximity to the ocean or a very large inland body of water, there’s lots to hear from the many vessels that come and go in the area. From your average Joe with a 16-foot pleasure craft to massive supertankers, they are probably all equipped with a marine VHF radio. It’s pretty much the international standard for all marine vessels and just about every scanner ever made is capable of monitoring the frequencies that are in use. A trip to the ocean without a scanner is like going to the beach without swim trunks as far as I am concerned!

We’re just scratching the surface talking about the reasons people like listening to scanner radios. There’s a whole world of things to listen to and probably some I have not even discovered after some four decades of scanning! I’ve covered the reasons I like scanning and if you’re new to the hobby, you’ll soon discover your own set of reasons for listening.