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How to buy a Police Scanner Radio for your Go Bag

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:

  1. NOAA (weather)
  2. Police, fire & other EMS communication
  3. Military communication
  4. Emergency responder communication
  5. Marine communication
  6. Ham radio communication

Police Scanner Radio Types

There are three types of police scanner radios

  1. Handheld
  2. Mobile (vehicle)
  3. 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:

  1. Digital
  2. Trunked
  3. Analog

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:

  1. If you have an analog or trunked scanner, you will not be able to hear digital signals.
  2. 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.
  3. Frequency formats are different all over the US and vary depending on state, county, department and federal agency which can be very confusing.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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By Damian Brindle

How To Effortlessly Get Prepared For Emergencies Of All Kinds In Only 5 Minutes A Day... Fast, Easy, And Inexpensively... In Less Than ONE Single Month... By Following An Expert In The Field: Discover My 5 Minute Survival Blueprint And Get Prepared Today.

3 replies on “How to buy a Police Scanner Radio for your Go Bag”

Your iphone wouldn’t work if the the s hit the fan though. I would think a dedicated platform is a smarter choice for today’s listening and in the case of a en emergency event. Other opinions?

I just started the using the 5-0 Radio app on my iPhone. Are you familiar with it? I love that I can leave the app and do other things on my iPhone while listening to it.

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