I rarely ever recommend folks to go out and buy the latest and greatest gadgets for survival preps. However, this is one piece of equipment I feel is worth the price. A radio scanner, sometimes called a police scanner, allows you to listen in on radio traffic (police, fire, rescue squad, etc.) in your area. As long as you don’t modify them so as to hear cordless phones or other prohibited conversations, they are quite legal to own and use.
You can find them at any decent quality electronics store, such as Radio Shack. I don’t recommend buying one at a big box discount retailer, such as Walmart, unless you know exactly what to look for in a unit. Be prepared to spend upwards of $100.00 to get a decent one. You want something that has an AC adapter to plug in at home, as well as being able to run on batteries or a DC plug for your vehicle. Further, get a portable one (handheld) rather than a base unit. I’ll explain why shortly.
The idea here is to perhaps get some degree of warning with regards to emergency situations. Radio traffic concerning roadblocks, for example, would allow you to plan a different route out of town if you’re trying to evacuate the area.
These scanners are programmable. Odds are good they’ll try to sell you the latest edition of the book that lists all the different radio frequencies. Don’t bother as this information is free online. My particular unit has 10 “banks” of 40 channels each. A bank is nothing more than just a group of frequencies. I can set it up to scan one bank, all of them, or any combination thereof. You want to program in all the emergency services frequencies in your area. Keep those all in the first few banks of your scanner. Then, program in State and Federal agency frequencies as they may apply to your area and concerns.
Now, here’s why you want a portable unit. If you anticipate having to travel any distance to get to your emergency retreat location, program the last few banks with the emergency services frequencies for the areas you’ll likely travel through between home and your retreat. Doing so will perhaps allow you a “heads up” as you approach those areas.