Programming Issues, Scanning, and Tones

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Dec 14, 2011
I’ve been a long time listener to my local fire departments, except when it comes to the technical issues with my own scanner, Uniden BCD 396XT, at home I’m lost with the programming issues. I have a few issues/questions and was wondering if anyone could help with the following:
1. I like to monitor a few of the local fire departments in my spare time, and usually do this through the “custom search” where you can only have 10 channels assigned as the custom search channels. My question is, is there a way where I can scan only one department’s set of frequencies and how would I do this? For example, how could I scan all of the channels I have programmed into one “system” for the Los Angeles Fire Department or the Ventura County Fire Department? Aside from the custom search channels, I do have the departments and their respective channels set up in their own “systems” in my scanner.
a. If there is a way to scan only one “system,” can you also scan more than one “system” at a time?
2. One of the departments I listen to recently switched over to a Simulcast system so that the radio traffic can be heard throughout their county and units can now communicate from within different cities in the county. The actual traffic is very clear now, except when the tones are dispatched out for the units, they now sound like they are sped up or in fast motion…however, when I listen to the dispatch channel through the live feed on, the tones are normal and sound like they should. Is there some kind of feature on my scanner or setting that would resolve this issue?
a. The frequency guide provided by the department, available to the public, also lists receive frequency, receive tone, transmit frequency, and transmit tone…would this have anything to do with the issue I am having?

Any help would be much appreciated.


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Dec 16, 2000
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Jul 22, 2002
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You can certainly scan more than one system at a time - what you can/can't scan is largely, in this context, dependent on how you set up your systems and allocated quick keys. If it were me - and this is just my take, and certainly not in any way a recommendation, I would set up a 'Fire' system with groups of frequencies, each one for a department I wanted to hear. Doing things in this manner would allow you to enable/disable a particular department at my desire.

DMA forces that grey matter between your ears to do some thinking in how you want to organize your scanning - you're no longer forced to think how to allocate a fixed number of channels within a bank. You might profit from learning about DMA and a better manual for the XT scanner than the lousy one Uniden provides. Both can be had from here...(all links are blue)

Uniden DMA FAQ - The RadioReference Wiki

The XT Easier to Read manual can be had in printed form from Scanner Master, or downloaded free. The links for both are at the bottom.

As to the tones - no I doubt that the transmit tone/freq is the problem here, although the detail here is more than a little sketchy (we could use the name of the trunk system you are monitoring, for example). However I've noted myself - and others have too - that dispatch tones sent through a digital system sound absolutely horrible, all chopped up and distorted. If you need to hear them, it's best to have that on the usual analog conventional frequency.

best regards...Mike
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