Monitoring Emergency Communications

AntennenIn the middle of any kind of emergency or disaster, keeping in touch with “the outside world” – anything outside of your home – can literally mean the difference between life and death.  Communications devices can be the key to your survival.

Most people have some sort of battery-powered radio in their homes. People who are a bit more forward thinking have radios that have a hand-cranked dynamo so that they’re not dependent upon batteries. These are all good things to have.

But what if the emergency is simply in the development stages? Something like a riot or a train car derailment. You still have power and all normal utilities coming into your home.

The first place most people will go is usually their television set. While beneficial, you need to understand that the content is edited and not always timely. You can go directly to the source via police and fire scanners.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a scanner, you can (most likely) get a live feed via the Internet at Very cool.  A similar service is offered by  As they note on their site, they are, “The world’s largest source of public safety, Aircraft, Rail, and Marine Radio live audio streams.”

Go to the site and click the Live Audio link. Click your state and see if there is a feed in your area. For instance, I am able to get a link to my sheriff’s dispatch and another for the local police and fire.

We had a huge fire in our area a few months ago, and the TV information was virtually useless. It was clear from observing the smoke plume that the fire was moving towards my house, but there was no information available about the exact location of the fire or if it was under control.

The TV helicopters just kept showing the massive flames but didn’t provide much information. Having this scanner information would have been fantastic for knowing the real status.

Since these are Internet based, you are not restricted to your locality. If something is brewing somewhere else in the country, you can simply select the state and location where something might be happening.

It’s a bit addictive, and a little disturbing. These broadcasts are the actual discussions going on between the officers and the dispatchers. Drivers licenses and names are broadcast, for instance, when someone is pulled over by a police officer.

They were obviously talking in Radio Code, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I found this site that gives you all of the codes that are used between the officers and the dispatchers.

One thing that is nice, is that they’ve got smart-phone apps for these services.  Anywhere with network or 4G access can listen in on what’s going on.


Of course, the “old school” method is to have a scanner.  These come in handheld, battery-powered models, all the way up to base stations.  Your wallet is your only limitation!

Not to be forgotten as well, are CB radios.  Inexpensive, but may provide an alternate method for local communication in a bad situation.  And yes, there’s an app for that – at least for Android phones – which make your smartphone into a CB.

Portable radios can also keep you informed.  This link lists the Local Emergency Radio stations around the country.  Set you car and portable radio receivers BEFORE an emergency to ensure you have quick access to information.


Knowing what’s “coming your way” can save your life. Consider a portable scanner for your vehicle in the event you need to relocate – bug out – on short notice.

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