Go bags are a critical part of any survival plan. While there are many components that make up a successful go bag, a communication device is required. While there is no shortage of emergency communication devices on the market, in this article we’ll review what a police scanner radio is, how it works, and what to consider when buying.
What is a Police Scanner Radio?
A scanner, commonly referred to as a police scanner radio, police scanner or scanner radio, allows users to listen to real-time, unfiltered radio communication. A scanner operates similar to an AM/FM radio in that it receives signals but cannot transmit.
Why do I need a Police Scanner Radio for my Go Bag?
A scanner is a great addition to any go bag as it provides users access to real-time information during an emergency. Popular things to listen to during emergencies include:
- NOAA (weather)
- Police, fire & other EMS communication
- Military communication
- Emergency responder communication
- Marine communication
- Ham radio communication
Police Scanner Radio Types
There are three types of police scanner radios
- Mobile (vehicle)
- Base (home or office)
For an emergency, you will want to purchase a handheld scanner as you can put in your go bag and bring with you wherever you go.
Police Scanner Radio Format
Scanners pick up three different frequency formats:
Similar to how an AM/FM radio picks up either AM or FM frequencies, scanners pick up either digital, trunked or analog frequencies. For emergencies you will want a digital scanner because:
- If you have an analog or trunked scanner, you will not be able to hear digital signals.
- Digital scanners can pick up trunked and analog signals in addition to digital so you will be able to listen to all emergency communication regardless of format.
- Frequency formats are different all over the US and vary depending on state, county, department and federal agency which can be very confusing.
- If your area does not require a digital format currently, in an emergency ,federal communication may be set which will use digital format or you may be moved to an area that uses digital.
- All emergency communication will be digital at some point.
Programming police scanner radios use to be a daunting process but new digital scanners are able to scan all frequencies in your area and save them into your scanner in minutes. You will want to buy a scanner with ‘quick scan’ capabilities which almost all newer digital scanner have.
Things to buy with a Police Scanner Radio
Handheld scanners can operate for 6-8 hours on a single charge. As most scanners take 4 AA batteries, you will want to have ample batteries as charging anything in an emergency may not be an option. We recommend at least a one week supply of batteries or 224 AA batteries.
A scanner antenna can increase what you can pick up on your scanner. While most scanner antennas are for vehicles or homes/bases, you may want to consider one for your handheld device.
What Police Scanner Radio to Buy
To be prepared for every emergency you will want to buy a phase two digital police scanner radio. There are several to choose from but we recommend either the BCD436HP or the HomePatrol-2 which are both excellent scanners and a great addition to any go bag.
About the Author
Luke Huebner is the founder and owner of Zip Scanners which specializes in police scanner radios, scanner antennas & scanner accessories. Zip Scanners hosts a large Scanner Resources & Learning Center to educate consumers about scanners.