Open-ended question on emergency communications monitoring


Active Member
Jun 1, 2020
Rensselaer County New York
I run the Radio Monitoring Net Tuesday nights at 7 pm on 146.94 here in Troy, NY, and in general we talk about "all things radio." Last week, one topic of discussion was developing a personal emergency communications plan.

Next week, one of the topics planned is monitoring emergency communications. Obvious targets would be air and marine emergency frequencies as well as local first responders and law enforcement.

So, the question: any other suggestions for HF, VHF, or UHF frequencies to monitor? It could be generic: "monitor your local highway department" or specific frequencies. One that comes to mind, when appropriate, the Hurricane Watch net on 14,325 USB.


Mar 12, 2014
I think it would depend upon the type of emergency. During COVID, when we had the "mostly peaceful protesters" setting fires to stores, breaking into car lots and stealing cars and looting stores (all of that happened in my city) I monitored the local PD and FD frequencies. If there was a more "broad' emergency, affecting local infrastructure and services, etc. I'd monitor the above freqs as well as the county sheriff freqs. While my county sends text and internet alerts for those who sign up, I'd be more apt to monitor the local AM radio station (my county lists one it would use for public emergencies) since cellular and internet communications might likely be adversely affected.


Jul 3, 2023
Always a good idea to have the mutual aid channels programed. In my area there are county based mutual aid channels and state wide mutual aid channels. There are also channels for state to adjacent state communication. You'll want to check the database and see if these exist in your area. I have several groups in a couple of programed systems dedicated to mutual aid.

The above interoperability channels should be programmed as well.

Skywarn et al should also be programmed, but I see your in NY so that may not be a big thing in your area.

Monitoring Civil Air Patrol may be of interest as well.

I don't monitor HF all that often so I can't be of much help there other than to say there are frequencies used by the Air Force for nuclear readiness and whatnot. Refer to an HF subforum on those.


Super Freq
Premium Subscriber
Nov 12, 2006
Council Bluffs, IA
I had a similar question in this thread and was educated on NIFOG - so I now have these programmed in my scanner:
NIFOG is also available in app form:


Explorer of the Frequency Spectrum
Premium Subscriber
Oct 25, 2008
Southern California and sometimes Owens Valley
I'm in the Los Angeles area which is a target rich environment for radio. I was also a working news photographer (like @trentbob ) for many years.

Here, we have a mix of very large agencies like Los Angeles PD/Fire, LA County Sheriff/Fire, and the California Highway Patrol, plus smaller cities and FD's, plus a significant and diverse contingent of news media. I usually don't monitor PD dispatch channels because there is just too much insignificant radio traffic. Monitoring Tac channels is more productive, since major incidents eventually end up there.

Unfortunately, more and more agencies are fully encrypting their systems, (LA Sheriffs for one) so that isn't always an option.

News media two way radio channels may be a productive source of information, but more and more media outlets are relying on cell phones. However, the VHF aeronautical frequencies are wide open for monitoring and "light up" during a major incident with helicopter traffic from both law/fire and news media helicopters. Here in LA, 123.025 is widely used.

Depending on geography, monitoring US Forest Service or BLM channels can be useful for both file and law enforcement information. I live near the Angeles National Forest (ANF) then the forest and admin nets carry lots of interesting traffic about vegetation fires, missing persons and traffic accidents.

Lastly, another potentially rich source of information in an emergency are the so called "SHTF" frequencies. (, These are usually a mix of different radio services and frequency bands. YMWV :) .


W3BUX- Bucks County, PA
Feb 22, 2007
Because of widespread police encryption this discussion has changed over the years. Media types would just focus in on a few pertinent dispatch frequencies that covered their papers catchment area.

The saying in every Newsroom was, the more you scan the less you hear so it always took at least monitoring two, sometimes three radios with just a few pertinent dispatch frequencies on each, if something was breaking then you could expand your coverage for details.

That scenario is long gone as all of our police are encrypted now, the only thing we have left is the city of Philadelphia has District dispatch in the clear but that's not for long, they are in the process slowly District by District moving over to encryption of everything.

Now, it's good to monitor news desk producers and news chopper comms, they don't give out much, longitude and latitude for locations of stories and background information on the story, but.. use GLOBE (ADS-B) to follow them and see where they orbit, you can also listen to air to air news chopper frequencies as the pilots share everything with each other including their raw observations that often don't get into the official story.

Unencrypted fire communications can shed some light on current events in real time. Tow truck operators, fire police, Coast Guard for marine rescues and absolutely, SHTF frequencies.