New Guy Needs Reccomend for Scanner (Ithaca, NY)

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Lebow

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Hey Guys,

I live in the Ithaca, NY (Tompkins County) area and am really close to Cornell University. I frequently see the Cornell Police and EMS drive by and have always been curious to know what they were up to. I though the best way to determine this would be to get a scanner of some sort, but I honestly have no idea what to get or even what I need. I used to be on a volunteer squad back in the day so I am familiar with radio equipment but have never purchased any in my life before.

This is the license for the frequency I would like to listen to:
ULS License - Public Safety Pool, Conventional License - WNGI598 - CORNELL UNIVERSITY

That's the only one I really care about, but if I could fit in the county ambulance, fire and Ithaca police, that would be a plus. Licenses:
ULS License - Industrial/Business Pool, Conventional License - KNHV871 - BANGS FUNERAL AND AMBULANCE
ULS License - Public Safety Pool, Conventional License - KKV459 - TOMPKINS, COUNTY OF

Or if it's easier:
Tompkins County, New York (NY) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference
Tompkins County-F1
Tompkins County-F7
Tompkins County-F8

(Or really all of them that aren't the administrative stuff, I couldn't find Ithaca Police though...)

I'm pretty sure CUPD runs on a trunking system. Ideally I'd like to have one of those hip pagers volunteers carry (purely for convenience), but am fine with a base scanner too. Price isn't a huge concern however I would not like to spend more money on something that will do more than what I need.

Also, do I need to program it myself? I thought most places you buy from will do that for you?

Thank you very much to anyone that can help me.
 

captclint

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Welcome to RR. Just about any scanner would do for what you want to hear except for CUPD. According to this, Tompkins County Public Safety , Cornell is on this system, and you will need a digital. They all run around $500. As for programming, you are definitely better off doing it yourself. There is free software for the Unidens, and you could become a paid subscriber to this site to get the automatic down loads from this site into your scanner, but this is also very reasonable($7.5 for 3 months). This can save you countless hours of programming and frustration Do NOT let someone else program your radio. You will learn a lot more about it from the software, and can make any adjustments and changes yourself.

If you decide to go digital, here are the considerations:
There are really only 2 choices and 4 radios(1 HH & 1 Base/mobile for each company) :GRE Radios and Uniden Scanners . RS is customer unfriendly, and very slow to incorporate firmware fixes and improvements. Uniden and GRE make radios for them, and the are both good about firmware updates, but RS delays firmware updates from both. GRE is the most aggressive and slightly better on customer relations. Also see: Digital Scanner Comparison Chart - The RadioReference Wiki
396 vs GRE PSR-500(at the end), or BCD996XT vs GRE PSR-600(at the end)

The basic considerations are as follows:


  1. GRE is more sensitive(gets weaker signals), but that very feature makes them prone to overload if in the city or near any type of radio/TV/cell towers. Previously, GRE was better with digital, but I think that difference has been minimized with the latest firmware from Uniden...see how important firmware can be.
  2. Uniden does not overload as much (hence is not as sensitive), and generally has more features, which you will probably appreciate once you are familiar. For example, they skip over encrypted communications, while GRE just hangs on them producing annoying noise. Also has GPS system control (limited value for a Base unit), and Fire Tone outs (limited value IMHO)
  3. You really need software to program and better understand a digital radio. There is an excellent program for Unidens that is free: FreeScan. GRE typically costs $30-$40

You will find diehards in either camp, but I think they all generally agree on the points above, so you need to decide if you are far enough from the radio signals to justify a GRE.
 
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Lebow

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Mar 3, 2010
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Thank you very much for the reply. I think I'm going to go with a base scanner just because I don't really need a portable one. Based on what you said, I'm thinking of going with the Uniden. This is because of the free software and also because I'm only about a quarter to half mile from campus (but down a hill). Do you think this is close enough that I won't need the extra sensitivity of the GRE?

Also, what exactly are fire tone outs?

Thanks again for all the help.
 

Lebow

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Yeah I read that the first time, but it's not very clear. Does this mean the tones used to dispatch an agency to a call? As in, a scanner without this option will only pick up voice traffic and not dispatch tones?
 

captclint

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Yeah I read that the first time, but it's not very clear. Does this mean the tones used to dispatch an agency to a call? As in, a scanner without this option will only pick up voice traffic and not dispatch tones?
Basically, it means that the scanner will remain silent to all pages and voice until it receives the tones assigned to specific fire company(s). The downside is that you can not scan while waiting for the tones. Without this feature, you will hear both tones and voice(if any) for any/all fire companies on the page channel, but you will have no real clue which companies are being toned-out unless there is also voice on the pager channel.

I guess this is useful if you want to be awaken or alerted to a specific fire company and you are not interested in scanning when using this feature.
 

Lebow

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Mar 3, 2010
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Thank you Clint, that makes a lot more sense.

Last question (I hope), as I was browsing some of the picture forums I noticed many people with a speaker attached next to their scanners. Do the scanners not come with a built in speaker? If the don't have a built in one, what sort of output is there from the scanner? Should I buy the speaker that I saw a bunch of people had (made by Uniden I think), or is there a cheap and easy alternative?
 

cool101530

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Location
Speedsville, New York
No Cornell

Last I knew, Cornell PD or EMS is not on the system and are still using the conventional frequencies. It's my understanding that they in 'negotiations' but Cornell typically likes to maintain autonomy and still has their own Dispatch center/system. (ie; A 911 call from a Campus phone will connect to CUPD and not Tompkins Dispatch) Some of the County Police agency talkgroups are encrypted (maybe car to car) which means that no matter what scanner you get, you won't hear them.
As far as reception, you can be pretty much in a cave and still receive the County system.
 
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