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Police, Fire Radio Scanners including Weather Alert and Aircraft Receivers

    Nothing is more exciting than turning on a police scanner and hearing a call dispatched about a robbery in progress or shots fired! Whether in handheld or desktop that is mobile mountable, scanners are here to stay. And with more and more issues happening in our Cities and Counties every day, there's always something to listen in on, possibly right in your own neighborhood. I've even heard myself being pulled over for a traffic warning back in my younger days and then hearing them run my plates. Almost funny!

If you're a volunteer firefighter you're already familiar with what's available to the general public concerning radio fire and police scanners. And today's technology is not being withheld by any means when designing and offering high tech scanners with options sometimes not even found in professional radios for agencies that are affordable to us all.

    So let me cover some things about police scanners and what to expect if you're in the market to purchase one. Three basic models to chose from right off the bat is handheld, desktop and or mobile mountable that can run off of house current or a cigarette lighter in your car. Handhelds with an auto adapter can be powered by the cigarette lighter as well. So if you're looking for total portability, then the handheld is your best choice. If you're looking for easy to read displays the desktop is your best option, and if you are a News Reporter or public volunteer for fire and medical, then maybe the mobile scanner may be best suited for your needs.

    Most scanners today will have an NOAA quick find setting that allows you to monitor National and local weather reports. Some offer quick find frequencies that are common across the nation to assist you in finding police frequencies compared to fire channels. If you don't know the frequencies in your local area, quick find will make it easy since they do generally separate these frequencies from fire, police, weather, and even airplane traffic. So this can help you locate your selection with a touch of a button just what you're looking for without any foreknowledge. But knowing your local police or fire frequencies is a plus to assure you don't miss out on specific frequencies that may be more active than others.

With the overcrowding of frequencies and demand for better transmissions between users. New technology has been advancing and forcing scanner users to upgrade to Trunk capable radios known as Trunk TrackingTM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trunked_radio_system ) and not just the standard VHF/UHF frequency of the past, but the UHF High frequencies in the 800 MHz range. That's the old cellular frequencies and not all agencies are using it just yet, but in time most are going that way because of FCC ruling forcing them to comply to reduce overcrowding on the main bands.

    So doing some investigation before hand is a must because not all scanners will have all those bands. And if you get one that does not handle your area in band coverage then you'll be limited to just what you can listen in on. Motorola is in the forefront of Trunk UHF technology for police and fire radios so if you're local agency only uses Motorola then it's a safe bet Trunk radios are in use. Other radios used by agencies are GE, Johnson and some foreign manufacturers just to name a few. But they may be licensing that technology and still use it even though they're not using Motorola.

    So the bottom line is go ahead and get the 800 MHz with Trucking and you'll cover not only today's usage but probably tomorrow's as well. So my recommendation for all users for all bands with the latest Trunk technology and portability would be the UNIDEN BC346XT compact handheld scanner. Or the desktop/mobile mountable UNITEN BCT8 that have highway features to complement your scanners enjoyment. All models listed can be found on Wilderness Geek.com Online Storefront under the Radio Scanners category. www.wildernessgeek.com

    But if you're just interested in NASCAR then simpler models would work best for you like the UNIDEN BC72XLT NASCAR radio for just under one hundred dollars. This unit does include the standard VHF/UHF frequencies for police, fire and weather channels.

But if you want to go one step up from this model and have the basic 800MHz band included, then maybe the UNIDEN BC95XLTB Nascar for just under one hundred and forty dollars is the right one for you. Again you'll find these models and others on Wilderness Geek.com

    If you were also interested in having the NOAA Emergency Auto Alert System capable radio, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Association then maybe the UNIDEN BC370CRS all Hazard Radio Scanners would work best for you. This allows you to not only listen in on police, fire and national weather, but keeps you ready for that tornado warning in the middle of the night with a PUBLIC ALERTTM detectable receiver. This gives you Emergency Alert Systems (EAS) technology that is nationally used to help give you an early warning of pending disasters. See Weather Radio Scanners article by Scott Eugene on Wilderness Geek.com for more detailed information on this emergency alert radio system technology. You'll find other articles concerning what to do and what to have on hand during emergencies.

    All of these radio models could play a role in any emergency or disaster situation and not just for recreational listening. So be prepared with extra fresh batteries and other items needed to assist you through trying times. See Emergency Survival category on Wilderness Geek.com for suggested electronic items to supplement your new or existing emergency supplies.

    Now lets talk about external antennas and external speakers to augment your radio for better reception and audio clarity. If you are in the country, just over a hill or small mountain then maybe reception of your favorite police channel is scratchy at best. So if you use the scanner as a base station then I suggest an outdoors or windows mountable antenna to bring in those week signals. I'll recommend the window mount TRAM 1199 since it is easy to mount for both mobile or in your home and is all band capable. It covers from 25MHz to 1300MHz and has 17 feet of coax (Antenna wire) and is just under twenty-two dollars on Wilderness Geek.com in the Radio Scanners Category.

    This simple antenna accessory will greatly improve your reception and should be mounted as high as possible since radio signal tend to be line of sight. So the higher the better in most instances. Other antennas that are mountable on the rooftop are going to give you the maximum reception possible but, during a thunderstorm you'll be glad you don't have a lightning rod right into your living room.

    If you choose to mount your radio scanner in your automobile then you'll need an external antenna as well and so with this model (TRAM 1199) you'll cover all the bases.

   Now even though all scanners have an internal speaker that is adequate for most situations, I suggest if you are in a high noise area, or you have mounted your scanner in your car or truck, to install along with it, an external speaker. These speakers nominally are designed for increasing the audio level and giving you a choice as to how you would like the sound directed. For a basic model to noise-canceling speakers, I recommend COBRA High Gear speakers. They range from just under twenty dollars to just under twenty-seven dollars. The HG S100 and the HG S300 model allows two different radios connected to it at once. Like piggybacking a CB radio along with your scanner is possible, thus eliminating an extra speaker and saving space under the dash.

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By Scott Hensler 0/12/2013

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