If they are using one of the old analog frequencies (ie: A-6 or A-9) you might as well forget it. With a hand held scanner you'll probably need to be within a half mile or so or you won't hear much of anything. They don't use repeaters so the signals aren't rebroadcast over wide areas, you can only hear their low power radios if you're close by. You can hear the dispatchers, but not the field units. That generally covers the actual fire calls.
If they're using the digital talkgroups (ie: K-6 or K-9) you need a digital trunking scanner, but I'm assuming you already know that. That gets more involved with which system they're on, who you want to listen to, what tower you're close to, and several other factors, and if you need more info on that, one of the other guys can give you a lot more help than I can. The K talkgroups are generally used for accidents, injuries, mountain rescues, and most other non-fire calls.
Correct, if they're at a fire or haz-mat incident using the simplex analog narrow FM VHF channels, you have to be fairly close to the incident scene. I can hear the command officer on their mobile radio farther away than a firefighter on their portable radio.
If they're on a typical medical call assigned to K-6 through K-9, they really don't use the voice radio much. Most of their comms are conducted via button presses on their MDC, such as responding, on scene, enroute to the hospital, available on radio, and available in quarters. If they request an ambulance/rescue or other additional manpower, you may hear that via voice. The medics follow an SOP, so there is little need to contact a hospital to get permissions from a doctor. If they do need to do so, that is done via cell phone or encrypted talkgroups that we cannot listen to, even though federal law (HIPPA) does not require these comms to be confidential.
Bigger incidents such as mountain rescues and multi-victim accidents will be assigned to K-10 through K-15. There will be much more voice activity coordinating their response on these talkgroups.
Most of the K-deck talkgroups are carried across simulcasts B through J full time, you should pick the one which covers your location. Rarely will you hear any of them on the IR (high) sites, with the exception that K-2 is usually carried on both the White Tanks and Thompson Peak sites, and I have heard K-6 on occasion via the Towers Mtn site.
K-2 is used by Central City, which serves the homeless in the downtown area who are addicted to alcohol, and units assigned to special events around the Valley.
I live near 56th St. and Cactus, so both Phoenix and Scottsdale are of interest. I don't know if that is "North" or "East" since it is NE. Also, where do I find and Scottsdale units that might be near me?
I understand the radio propagation issues with simplex - they may have to be very near to hear the handhelds and a little farther out to hear the mobile units.
I don't have a trunking digital scanner in my car - just a dual-band ham rig (IC-2730A) that can monitor out-of-band, but I am considering adding my BCD996T, although I have no place to put it where I can control it.
I don't know what your level of understanding is, so I don't know if I'm telling you stuff you already know, or if this is all new to you. Here's a few things that might help (or might not). Phoenix does the dispatching for just about all the valley fire departments (Mesa being the 1 large city that does their own).
In the old days boundaries were fairly rigid and units had to specifically ask for help from other departments if needed. Now with mutual aid agreements and a central dispatch center, the closest unit goes, regardless of whose jurisdiction it is.
Valley wide fire departments have an agreed upon numbering system so every town has unique numbers. Phoenix uses 1 to 99 (with a few 9xx numbers, but that's another story. Units on the west side start with odd numbers, ie: Glendale uses 151-159, Peoria uses 191-199, Buckeye Valley uses 321-329, etc, and the east valley use even starting numbers, ie: Tempe is 271-279, Scottsdale uses 601-629, etc.
Analog channel 5 (153.830) is generally used for the NE valley and I would assume most calls in your area would be on that channel. 6 (154.310) is generally the NW valley, Glendale, Peoria, etc. 7 (154.145) is SE valley and Tempe. 8 (153.770) is south, 9 (155.670) is west and southwest, 10 (151.370) is far north. Nothing is cast in concrete, and traffic is often moved due to number if incidents, if increased radio usage is needed, etc. I think MIB posted some pretty good boundaries awhile back, but I can't find it now.
One other suggestion if you're not familiar with it. The fire dispatch center has a dispatch page available to the public. It doesn't show personal injury stuff (heart attack, broken leg, etc), but it does show major events, fires, accidents with injuries, mountain rescues, etc. They use block numbers not exact addresses, but you can see who's responding, who's on scene etc. When it shows a K number (ie K5), that's the digital talk group number that you won't be able to receive until you upgrade to a good digital scanner), and an A number (ie A5), is the analog channel number. https://htms.phoenix.gov/publicweb/
Thank you - that is great detail. I belongs in a FAQ! I am sure it will also help others.
I knew some of this but certainly not all. I monitored PFD and PPD for about 30 years until they went trunking, at which time at my home in a canyon in PV I couldn't receive any of the sites. Now I'm trying to figure out the best stuff to monitor, except for PPD C deck (sigh).
Northeast Phoenix is A-5 and K-7.
Scottsdale is A-11 and K-7.
A-10 is generally north of the 101, east of I-17 or so, and North of the CAP canal, west of I-17.
Phoenix PD is on Simulcast A. The Black Mtn 200 precinct can also be heard on the Thompson Peak IR site.
Scottsdale PD will be on Simulcast H. Scottsdale PD North A-2 can also be heard on the Thompson Peak IR site.
Paradise Valley PD can still be heard on their analog conventional 800 MHz channels, AFAIK.
Do it the way they do - with a BIG external VHF antenna as high up as you can get it.
They do sometimes simulcast big incidents on the RWC but as of last I knew those channels were encrypted for whatever crazy reason. Never seen someone go so nutso with encryption as I have with that system. The PCWIN down here in Tucson has hardly any encryption on it by comparison. FAR more enjoyable and informative to listen to than the RWC or TRWC are.
Roughly, west of I-17, north of Northern Ave, south of the CAP canal, uses A-6 and K-6. (Phoenix and Glendale north of Northern Ave, Peoria, Sun City, El Mirage, Surprise, North County)
Roughly east of I-17 to the Scottsdale border, north of Indian School Rd and south of the 101, uses A-5 and K-7.
Scottsdale uses A-11 and K-7.
Downtown and South Phoenix use A-8 and K-8.
Roughly bounded by Northern Ave on the north, I-17 between Northern and I-10 on the east, north of I-10 from I-17 west to 83rd Ave, then west of 83rd Ave down to Southern Ave, and north of Southern Ave is A-9 and K-9. I frequently hear Buckeye and Buckeye Valley using A-9 even for medical calls. I'm not sure if they have coverage issues with the K-deck talkgroups, or if not all the apparatus and firefighters have RWC-capable radios.
Sky Harbor, Tempe and Guadalupe use A-7 and K-8.
Chandler and Sun Lakes, as well as Maricopa I believe, use A-12 and K-8.
Tonopah and Harquahala Valley use A-13. I don't think I've heard them assigned to a K-deck, but if so, it should be K-9.
Gila Bend I believe uses A-9 exclusively.
Daisy Mtn (New River, Desert Hills) uses A-10 and K-7.
Here's a link to an older map for the VHF tactical channel (A-deck) assignments. There have been a few changes since this came out (A-11 for Scottsdale, A-12 for Chandler et al, and A-13 for Tonopah and Harquahala Valley), but you should be able to use this as a general guide:
Just remember that the K-decks are assigned clockwise, starting with K-6 in the upper left hand corner (Northwest Valley), and using Northern Ave and I-17 as rough dividing lines. K-decks 10 through 15 are assigned as needed, anywhere in the regional response area.