Radio Scanners as Survival Tools

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.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

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