Why You Need a Scanner

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As the situation degrades more every day, I want to give you some advice and some direction on having a scanner and how best to employ it.

A radio scanner is a receive-only device designed to let you listen to a large number of frequencies with a single unit. You can program either manually or with available software.

People most often use them to listen in on Public Safety agencies like local police and fire departments. This has become more difficult with the advent of digital radios for public safety. This made the process harder, but not impossible.

However, a scanner can be used for a lot more. Signals Intelligence is the process of monitoring local radio transmissions, listening for information that you can use. Sure, a lot of that information will indeed come from scanning Public Safety agencies, but there are a lot of other uses as well.

I recommend getting a handheld digital trunking unit, so that you can take it into the field with you. Since we’re only talking about receiving, you don’t need a more powerful base station. As an example, I use a scanner at rallies and protests, as I describe below, carried in my backpack, listening for ANTIFA/BLM radio usage.

Begin by using a service like http://www.radioreference.com to program in your state and local Public Safety systems. Don’t bother trying to input federal frequencies, they generally use an encoding system that scanners can’t read.

Next, using the same reference, input analog frequencies from local security companies. They may be reporting incidents of local interest that never end up on Public Safety channels. At the very least, it will give you an idea of the security threats that local businesses face. In the same vein, input the security frequencies from area shopping malls as well.

Now we get the part that Mike Shelby of http://www.forwardobserver.com calls “The Bubba Finder”. Input the frequencies from the FRS, GMRS, and MURS bands. These are the bubble pack radios that can be found at stores. In a WROL situation, being able to detect people using these radios near you can help alert you to potential trouble and potential allies.

Working Radio Intercept

Programming in local amateur radio repeaters can also let you gather information on local conditions from more sources. In a crisis, amateur radio operators will be a great asset.

When buying a scanner, seek one with a search or sweep function. These functions search your local area for ANY radio traffic, even on frequencies you haven’t specifically programmed. This could be VITAL in a WROL situation. Even now, you’ll be surprised at how much radio traffic there is out there. Begin building a database of frequencies your find in use.

Once you have the scanner up and running, start documenting information gathered via Signals Intelligence. Include any new frequencies found in your area. Keep a running logbook and then begin going back through it for analysis. During a WROL situation, someone should always be tasked with maintaining a radio listening watch.

While no license is needed to listen, research your local laws on using one in a car. In Michigan, for example, the law used to prohibit it. Now, it is allowed, but it’s a crime to use a scanner while committing a criminal act.

Earpieces and external speakers are good accessories to have for a scanner. They are sold as CB speakers.

As always, guidance on this can be found in the Ultimate Tactical Handbook:

Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Matthew 11:15

Information means survival. In a WROL situation, a scanner can warn you of impending danger and bring you valuable information.

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Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

5 thoughts on “Why You Need a Scanner

  1. Very useful article. I’ve been a scanner listener for almost twenty years! While public safety users may encrypt and there is no legal scanner (not even a digital one) to intercept such communications, radios that criminals use will likely be in the clear indefinitely. Most of my listening entails fire dispatch, railroad and marine, but I also have some prepper frequencies in my scanners just in case…


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