If it sounds like a stupid question, it probably is.

My mom loves being nosy... When she hears the police siren, an ambulance, firefighters, or something like that, she's the first one to run to the balcony to see what's going on and ask neighbors what happened. She also loves weather stations; give her the "sense" that she knows something that nobody else knows.

Unfortunately, she's not technological.

With that said, could someone please give me some advice on buying her a scanner that will let her listen to police, emergency, and those frequencies without needing much technological know-how?

I'm looking for something that she can turn on and start being nosy. I can do a few modifications if needed since I work with computers, but I know very little about frequencies, scanners, etc.

I was thinking of those Uniden scanners, but the cheapest one is about $90 and I've read that it's hard to program and includes virtually no documentation out-of-box.


  • $\begingroup$ I assume you know about Trunking and police scanners that use trunking. The reason I bring this up is that a trunking radio is almost a necessity these days and they often are not supported in the cheapest radios. To learn more about Trunking, here is a tutorial: wiki.radioreference.com/images/c/c7/Trunking_description.pdf $\endgroup$ – K7PEH May 4 '16 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Have a look at your favorite "app store" for your mothers mobile device, there are various streaming applications which will stream scanner audio. There might be a stream which would cover your area. $\endgroup$ – Edwin van Mierlo May 5 '16 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, but she only has a clamshell cellphone. She's literally not a technological person. $\endgroup$ – rbhat May 5 '16 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with this post is not that it is too general or basic, it's that it's asking for product recommendations. Shopping is off-topic almost everywhere on the Stack Exchange network. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO May 5 '16 at 18:45
  • $\begingroup$ Would you like me to edit your question for you so that it doesn't violate the guidelines? I'd be happy to do it. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 May 5 '16 at 23:11

If you live in an urban environment, you'll want a scanner that can do trunking. If you live in a rural environment, then you might not need trunking. You'll want a scanner that allows you to give each channel a descriptive label. Don't get a Baofeng ham walkie-talkie; they're very inexpensive, but they make lousy scanners.

Don't waste your time programming the scanner manually; use software (probably costs extra). The software can help you research frequencies also. Buy the scanner and program it, and spend at least a couple weeks playing with it so that you can explain how to use it to your mom. You'll also want to learn the lingo that the public services use; it can be daunting at first, but there are web sites to help, and once you get the hang of it then it's not so cryptic. Have fun!

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much for your comment. So without going into details about product recommendations... a certain extremely popular shopping website essentially sells the Baofeng and the Uniden scanners. For the purposes that you described, do you think Uniden is the right scanner for me? $\endgroup$ – rbhat May 9 '16 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ I programmed a scanner for a non-technological friend about ten years ago, but I didn't have to pick it out. I just had a look on eBay, and boy there are a lot of models out there, and alphanumeric displays, trunking, and digital get expensive fast. In your shoes I'd find out from a web site if you need digital, and if not I'd get a cheap scanner, program it manually, and type up a list of the frequencies for your mom. The brand probably isn't so important; a Uniden could surely get the job done, but so too could a Radio Shack or a Whistler. The inexpensive models are all about the same. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 May 9 '16 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks again. So how do I look for one on ebay? Search by text radio scanner? $\endgroup$ – rbhat May 9 '16 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Initially, I don't want to spend too much since I'm not sure if she's going to end up using it or throw it in the closet. I know that product recommendations are not allowed, but is it possible to get something decent (used or new) for under $100? $\endgroup$ – rbhat May 9 '16 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ I found lots of great information on scannermaster.com. $\endgroup$ – rclocher3 May 9 '16 at 19:37

You may find Broadcastify to be useful as a start for your search, especially if you are not sure whether this is a passing interest or an ongoing one. They have web-based feeds of scanners all around the USA and in a few other countries. The top 50 audio feeds listing gives you access to the most popular scanners on their list. This gives you access to scanner traffic, including traffic outside of your local area that would be impossible to pick up with a radio tuned to local frequencies.


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