posted on May, 13 2018 @ 03:06 AM
It all comes down to location.
My area is still analog and very little is covered by internet feeds so a scanner app is limited as far as local emergency communications is
concerned. An inexpensive, used, tabletop (radio shack pro-2018 for basic use) is more than sufficient. In 5 years, who knows?
If the system you want to listen to is trunked, trunk trackers are available at a reasonable cost. Uniden's Close Call and RadioShack's
SignalStalker, while not frequency counters, help sniff out new frequencies.
A few years ago, the FCC required all new systems be narrow banded. Older scanners may not take the new frequencies exactly, but in using whatever it
rounds to will work. Just not quite as clear. The big elephant in the room is...
As with all other electronic media, the change over from analog to digital modulation has been coming for a while. I have an old issue (1996 I
believe) of Monitoring Times magazine that was covering the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) P25. P25 was a guideline
for standardizing the upcoming move to digital. There are several methods of digitized voice modulation and standardizing the process, mitigated
future issues concerning interoperability.
That made too much sense. While many systems are P25, manufacturers have many tricks up their sleeves and some are proprietary. Everyone is chasing
the tax dollars. Unfortunately, "unscanable" systems are a selling point for some municipalities.
This makes it rough on a scanner enthusiast. Its all on what your local jurisdiction is doing. The above mentioned radio reference website is the best
info resource I have ran into. A scanner that is digital capable will set you back a bit, just bite the bullet on that one. If they have encrypted the
system, save your money. There is still other interesting stuff in the clear.
The scanner apps are a handy tool to use. You are at the mercy of those uploading. Some feeds change or go down from time to time, but for free or
almost free, you can't beat it.
An additional thing I've ran into, is that the user base is quick. Amazingly so.
You can set the app to alert you if a feed goes above a preset number of users. If something big is going on, you get a heads up. Many times, before
big media make a "breaking news" announcement.
As an aside, the difference between the media coverage and what was heard on the scanner feeds during the 2016 Democratic and Republican conventions
was amazing. But, I digress.
Scanning can be fun, informative, and sometimes, heartbreaking. It sometimes gets a bad rap, but many things worthwhile have that same issue.
Monitor responsibly. 73