Emergency Scanner: Police/Fire

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d64gto

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I am a newbie, for those who may respond, please dumb down comments for one who does not have a clue with respect to Radio Scanning devices. I came across a website, 'Radio Scanner Guide' that has a great deal of information on the topic which I intend to review.

I reside in the Santa Cruz Mountains, north of Boulder Creek, Ca., which is east of the City of Santa Cruz, Ca., located on the Central Coast. There have been a couple of forest fires in my area in the last week and I was unable to get any information as to the status of the fire, I was fairly confident the tankers, helicopters, and fire crew handled the situation when they were no longer hovering over my house. Decided I want to purchase a police and fire scanner to use only when these type of situations arise, I thought about online, or phone devices but there are a number of occasions when the emergency can result in power outages and thus eliminate access to the internet. I am considering a handheld device with a limited number of frequencies for police, and fire, and not too complicated to operate. In addition, if I should contact local emergency response agencies to determine which type of devices I am authorized to operate. Appreciate any suggestions or comments.

Dave
 

oracavon

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You're in luck. Virtually all of the agencies in Santa Cruz county are using conventional analog frequencies. All you need is a relatively inexpensive, programmable analog scanner radio. Not only do you not need an expensive digital scanner, you don't even need analog trunking capability. In fact, you don't even need 800 Mhz coverage. The type of radio you need is also the simplest to program.

Handheld radios which would meet your needs include the Uniden models BC75XLT (around $100) and BC125AT (around $130). There are also some Radio Shack models that would work as well, but Radio Shack is a little shaky these days with their financial problems (their stock is in the dumps and they're closing another 1000+ stores).

To see what channels are in your area, see this page: Santa Cruz County, California (CA) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference. In addition, the California Dept of Forestry Fire channel for your area can be found on this page: Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference.

As far a being "authorized", any person can legally listen to a scanner, providing that you don't use it to assist in the commission of a crime and you don't divulge what you hear to a third party.
 

mmckenna

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Well put.
VHF analog is pretty much all you need if you want to listen in on fire and law enforcement radio traffic in Santa Cruz county. The county doesn't have the money to upgrade to anything else at this point, or for the foreseeable future. This is good since it means you only need a very basic scanner to hear what's going on.

800MHz analog can be useful as that is what the State Parks guys use for operations and law enforcement, but not really a whole lot of traffic there. What you want to listen to is CalFire and the County Fire channels. There are a few mutual aid channels that would be useful. Often smaller spot fires like the ones you had last week are dealt with on those mutual aid channels rather than tying up CalFire channels.

None the less, a basic, low cost scanner will do what you need.

Due to your location, I'd recommend you install an external antenna outside your house. This will really improve reception

Also, you can get a good idea what's going on in the county by checking this website:
FireDispatch.com
Use the drop down menu in the upper right hand corner and select "Santa Cruz County". This is a direct feed off the computer aided dispatch system in NetCom. Sometimes you can link to audio, too. The site will show what the incident is, and what resources have been dispatched from the County side.

Other one is:
CHP Traffic
On the top left, under "communications centers", select "Monterey". This will show you what CHP is working in the area. Often it gives more info that what you'll hear on the radio. Good for seeing what's going on along 17, 9 and 35.
 

Kingscup

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Oracavon pointed out a good low cost simple scanner in the BC125AT. It has received good reviews and I also like it. The only problem I don't like about it is that it does not come with a wall charger. It comes with a USB cord that you can plug into a laptop or desktop computer to recharge the rechargeable batteries. Sometimes you don't have access to a computer to recharge it. There is an adapter you can buy to hook it up to a wall charger. Otherwise, a good little scanner.

http://forums.radioreference.com/sc.../235119-uniden-bc125at-first-impressions.html
 

d64gto

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Boulder Creek, Cal
Thank U's all I found the information and links very helpful. I have been doing some cyber shopping and intend purchasing the BC125AT it's just a matter of deciding who to purchase it from, it would probly be best to purchase locally, figure that in the event I can not figure out how to program the device the sales person should be able to help?? Read in the link: 'Uniden BC125AT First Impressions ' where the author of the review mentioned the Diamond RH77CA antenna and considering my location thought I would add the item to my shopping list, unless advised otherwise. Again, I can not thank U all for the comments and suggestions, greatly appreciated.
 

scottyhetzel

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Oracavon pointed out a good low cost simple scanner in the BC125AT. It has received good reviews and I also like it. The only problem I don't like about it is that it does not come with a wall charger. It comes with a USB cord that you can plug into a laptop or desktop computer to recharge the rechargeable batteries. Sometimes you don't have access to a computer to recharge it. There is an adapter you can buy to hook it up to a wall charger. Otherwise, a good little scanner.

http://forums.radioreference.com/sc.../235119-uniden-bc125at-first-impressions.html
USB is the future, there are awesome fast chargers for USB, both car adapters and home chargers. I'm sure your cell phone did not have a wall wort. One plug charges and programs. I wish my 346xt came with a USB type charger. I can't find a decent 12 volt car charger for it. Uniden never has one. Radio shack does carry them but you need to get the right connector. If I had a USB charger I could plug it into my car easily. Plus most new cars have built in USB chargers, flush type . I am talking portables only. Mobile units need a regular plug. It's hard for me to imagine using a " laptop" for charging. The ports have low wattage output would take many hours to charge. The 3 amp USB's charge super fast like a few hours.
 

rwier

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............. it's just a matter of deciding who to purchase it from, it would probly be best to purchase locally, figure that in the event I can not figure out how to program the device the sales person should be able to help?? ..........................
Based upon those requirements, I would drift over to the closet Ham Radio Outlet shown at

Ham Radio Store in Santa Cruz, California with Reviews & Ratings - YP.com

Your lucky, they are all around you.

Oops, call ahead to see if they sell the item.
 

K6CDO

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If you are interested in listening to State Parks or CHP units outside of the patrol car (handheld extenders), I would get a scanner that has basic P25 (digital) receive capabilities and covers 700 MHz (Parks is implementing a number of 700 MHz repeaters throughout the state as augmentation for their 800 MHz network).
 

d64gto

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Boulder Creek, Cal
If you are interested in listening to State Parks or CHP units outside of the patrol car (handheld extenders), I would get a scanner that has basic P25 (digital) receive capabilities and covers 700 MHz (Parks is implementing a number of 700 MHz repeaters throughout the state as augmentation for their 800 MHz network).
It sounds like these additional feature may be beyond my lever of ability to comprehend, I am looking at the BC125 as probly at a level I may be able to read the instructions and get the device to operate at a beginner's level,. If it's any indication, I have my 16 yr. old grandson program the tone response on my cell phone in the even I should forget and turn it on. I really don't expect to operate the device unless an emergency requires. I am not a social media type of individual ; however, the 'ham operator' aspect sounds interesting so the BC125 may possibly be an introduction. Thank you for the input!!
 

rwier

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Appreciate the link, I will call around and see if any carry the unit I am looking for.
I messed up somewhere. I clicked on a couple of those sites on the map and they were NOT HRO like I thought. Some of them aren't even in English? Better forget my tip, it looks messed up, sorry.
 

d64gto

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Boulder Creek, Cal
I messed up somewhere. I clicked on a couple of those sites on the map and they were NOT HRO like I thought. Some of them aren't even in English? Better forget my tip, it looks messed up, sorry.
I did check on a couple and the referral and the company in S'Vale appears to stock the items I am interested in; although, I did review some of the comments of customers and appears there were a few who did not have any thing favorable to say about their customer support, 3.7 out of 5??
 

mmckenna

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Your closest HRO is on Lawrence Expressway, just west of Highway 101 in Sunnyvale. It's in the shopping center, look for the tower and the antenna.

Other than Radio Shack, you won't find any other places in Santa Cruz county that carry scanners. Heading over the hill is your best bet. Also, I think Fry's used to carry them, not sure if it they still do or not.
 

d64gto

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Boulder Creek, Cal
Your closest HRO is on Lawrence Expressway, just west of Highway 101 in Sunnyvale. It's in the shopping center, look for the tower and the antenna.

Other than Radio Shack, you won't find any other places in Santa Cruz county that carry scanners. Heading over the hill is your best bet. Also, I think Fry's used to carry them, not sure if it they still do or not.
This is the HRO I was referring to in previous thread, and as you noted, there is no other place I could find in S/Cruz that carry the items. In the next few day I will give them a call to confirm the items are in stock and venture over the hill but I am going to be focusing more on their customer support. .
 
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