All About Police Scanners

What are scanners?
A scanner is a radio receiver that checks ("scans") many channels quickly to allow you to listen to two-way radio calls. Two-way radios, used by police, fire and others, use short transmissions that occur on thousands of radio channels.

There are many different types of scanners and it can get kind of confusing to decide the right one for you. Fortunately the experts at Scanner Master can help! Just call us at 1-800-SCANNER or email us and we can help you decide.

Another thing to remember is that once you buy a scanner you can learn more about how to use it as you go. Get the basics down now and learn about the more advanced features later if you wish. Whether the police scanner is for yourself, a relative or friend, the great thing about scanners is that you can use them at a basic level just to listen to your local agencies or one can immerse him or herself in the details of the scanner features and in the hobby and exploration of radio itself. A police scanner can be simply interesting and informative, entertaining or even provide you with a lifetime hobby if you so desire.

There are several factors to consider when picking the right scanner. We have boiled it down to 3 questions to simplify your choice:

Form Factor:
Do you want a desktop, portable or a scanner for your vehicle?

Do the communications you want to listen to use digital, analog, trunked or conventional radios? If you don't know call or email and we can look it up for you. This helps determine whether you need an advanced or basic scanner. (See the FAQ link below for more details on the types of scanners available.)

We have scanners that program by location, just enter your ZIP Code and the radio will self-program from an internal database. We also have scanners that program the old fashioned way, with a keyboard. Some even allow both methods, start with the ZIP Code and then learn how to program it yourself later (or not!). Most scanners will allow the use of computers to program them. Whether you are a scanner expert or just want to listen to your local action we can help.

Why do I want or need a scanner?
Most people who buy a scanner do so to hear what is happening around them. They want to hear their local police or fire departments and know what is happening in their neighborhoods. Other scanner users have a professional need, police and firefighters want to hear their own agency when off duty and neighboring agencies when they are on the job. Tow trucks want to know when there are wrecks in which they are needed. Security guards need to listen for activity in their areas, and so on.

What can I listen to?
Most people who buy scanners want to listen to their local police and fire calls. While they are often called "Police Scanners", there is a lot more to listen to if you want. Here is a selection of other users you could listen to on a scanner (depending on your proximity to the agency and the power and type of radio system they are using):

  • Police (Local Police, County Sheriff, State Police and Highway Patrol)
  • Fire Departments
  • EMS/Rescue Squads/Hospital
  • Road and Street Departments
  • Railroads
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Military
  • Schools and Universities
  • Utilities (Water, Gas, Electric etc.)
  • Malls and stores
  • Stadiums

How do I get started?
That's where Scanner Master comes in. We not only sell scanners and accessories, but we also help you get going.

First we make sure you get the right scanner. We pride ourselves in helping our customers choose and use the right scanners for nearly 40 years. We have scanner experts on staff to assist. None of the huge online retailers can do that.

Second we help you setup your scanner. Scanners need to be properly programmed for the area in which they'll be used and "ZIP Code" scanners need to have the database updated from time to time. We can help you with these or you can do it yourself.

Finally, we are there to help when you need us. Once you buy from us we don't abandon you. We can help answer questions or at least point you to resources that you can use. Need a new antenna or software or just have a question? Call or email us!

Police Scanner Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Still not sure what you need? Please call us at 1-800-SCANNER (722-6637) or email us.