Imagine this: what if I want to listen to a scanner? | Columns


I have written a few times over the past year on how to listen to local and regional public safety communications such as police, firefighters, EMS, and thunderstorm watchers.

Every now and then someone will ask me what kind of receiver to buy if they’re interested, and there are some decent receivers out there, some for under $ 100.

Scanners are a frequent part of the prepper scene, sometimes shown in YouTube videos and on websites describing the contents of a “ready-made bag”, also sometimes referred to as a “bug out bag”.

There is one super cheap and super popular radio to avoid: the BaoFeng. I own a few of these weird radios, but only because I’m a licensed amateur radio operator (KC5TFZ), and that means two things: 1. I’m licensed to transmit on the appropriate amateur frequencies, and 2. I know how program and use a radio such that I do not accidentally broadcast on other frequencies in the spectrum, such as public safety or business channels.

Why would the second be important? Well, this is the reason why I strongly discourage people from buying the BaoFeng: it will transmit on all frequencies in VHF and UHF frequencies. What? Wow. In my opinion, this is a dangerous possibility. With first responders relying on clear and fast communications, lives are at stake and these communications could be disrupted by an improperly programmed BaoFeng radio and reckless user.

Think about it: if this radio was slung against an armrest, it could potentially block emergency radio communications.

This is why my BaoFeng radios are only programmed for amateur radio frequencies that I can use safely and legally as a licensed amateur radio operator.

There are other better choices if you want to monitor critical communications.

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