I recently wrote a blog on selecting a Police Scanner and I wanted to do a deeper dive on how to select one and how to begin the set up process.
The process begins at RadioReference.com.
The first thing we are going to do is inspect our area and determine what systems we want to follow.
Then we’ll take a peek at the antennas used to transmit and determine whether or not we have something called Simulcast.
Simulcast is when multiple radio towers transmit the same thing at the same time. This is obviously done to provide a larger coverage area to ensure our First Responders don’t hit any dead radio zones in their area of operations. But, Simulcast can cause horrific distortion and some radio scanners simply cannot do Simulcast systems very well at all.
On the main page right under where it says RadioReference.com on the top left is a blue tab. The second tab to the left says Databases. It has a subcategory called Frequency Database which is what we want to select. Then Select the Browse button which throws you to a map of the US. Click on your State and then your County.
Frequency Database (click pics to enlarge)
Now on the page with your selected county it will show the systems available to you. Mine are from North Carolina, Craven County
|Craven County Trunked Systems (6)||Trunked|
|Craven County Amateur Radio||Amateur Radio|
|Coastal Carolina Regional Airport (KEWN)||Aircraft / Airport|
|Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point||Military|
Let’s click on “Craven County Trunked Systems”. The results will look like this:
|NC PRN Amateur Radio Network||DMR Conventional Networked||Various|
|NC4ES DMR Cluster||DMR Conventional Networked||Various|
|New Bern Public Safety||Project 25 Phase I||New Bern|
|North Carolina VIPER||Project 25 Phase I||Varies|
|Progress Energy||Motorola Type II SmartZone Omnilink||Various|
|United States Marine Corps (00A)||Project 25 Phase II||Various|
From here we can decide what we want to listen to. While I am a licensed ham I don’t want the amateur radio network. I have other radios for that. I could go down the list but the only ones that actually interest me are “New Bern Public Safety” and North Carolina Viper.
Both systems are Project 25 Phase 1 systems so right off the bat I know I need to buy a radio that does digital trunking. That probably limits me to a handful of radios mostly from Uniden or Whistler.
Now lets click on New Bern Public Safety. Under Sites and Frequencies click on the words “New Bern”. On the next page look at where it says “FCC Call Signs” at the bottom of the first table. Now click on “WNNB505”. That then takes you to a page with a table showing how many antenna towers there are. In New Bern there are two antenna towers. 2 antennas = SIMULCAST
NBPS to Callsign to Tower Locations (click pics to enlarge)
This DOES NOT mean other radios won’t work just fine. Simulcast is a goofy wench. I own a Whistler TRX-1 handheld scanner. When I lived inside the city of New Bern the Simulcast distortion was horrific. I couldn’t listen to New Bern Public Safety at all. A year ago I moved just outside the city out in the country and put some distance between myself and the two antennas. Now my TRX-1 works fine on that system. That is, unless I put the scanner in the truck and drive into town.
So at this point I can pretty much tell you that the SDS100 and SDS200 will work, but anything else you need to talk to your local scanner geeks and amateur radio operators before you make your purchase. Without going through the whole list of systems I made above I can tell you the North Carolina VIPER only has one antenna on my Site Frequencies in New Bern. No Simulcast.
You’ll may find something similar in your area. A mix of systems. Speaking of a mix if you look back up at my list of Trunked systems you’ll see one that says DMR Cluster. DMR decoding COSTS EXTRA on Uniden Scanners. $60 extra to be exact. There are two other decoders called NXDN and ProVoice (EDACS) which also cost extra. I listen to the Railroads here which are NXDN. You can check on DMR, NXDN or P25 systems at Digital Frequency Search which is another nifty tool to use for doing system research.
ULTIMATELY YOU HAVE TO SCROLL THROUGH YOUR LIST OF SYSTEMS, DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO, AND THEN DO THE REQUISITE HOMEWORK LIKE WE JUST DID HERE.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to BearCat Warehouse or Scanner Master and say: “I live in New Bern NC and want to track NBPS and VIPER and whatever. What radio do your recommend?” In fact that may be smart play from the beginning.
On RadioReference.com Forums they have statewide forums as well. Register for an account and go on the North Carolina forum and say “I’m a Newbie from New Bern, what scanner should I get?” People on these forums are old radio geeks like me who live and breathe to talk about radios. THEY WILL HELP YOU.