Listening Skill Set


Lots of people always ask me “how do you know what they’re saying?” They of course are referring to the consist follow of radio chatter coming from my scanner. It may sound strange to some of you, but you need to develop an “ear” when it comes to listening to radio traffic.



two scanners are better then one

At times, the scanner can be very active. If there is a major event underway, things can get confusing. On a regular day radio traffic (police, fire, EMS, etc.) can be non-eventful.  At any moment things can change.  After developing your listening skills you will start to recognize certain key words, codes or phrases that can alert you to things of interest. The first step is getting a list of the “10 codes” that are used in your AO. Most “10 codes” are the same but some jurisdictions use a variant and it is very important to know what you are hearing. There are other things that can alert you to an incident that my not be as recognizable to an untrained ear. When my local police department has a serious event, there is a “beep” after every transmission.  This “beep” is not present during normal operations. If I turn my radio on and hear that clue, I tune in. Your area my use something similar or have a different indicator that you can pick up on. The only way to get familiar with these things is to spend time monitoring. You should be listening for addresses close to your AO to determine what is going on outside your home. A portable scanner is great to take with you whenever you go out. It is small and can easily be tucked away out of sight.  When you are sitting in the car waiting for your significant other to come out of the store you can be scanning and collecting intel. It’s discrete and can really help you to sharpen your skills. The more you operate the radio, the better you will be when the action is hot. Read the manual! The book always has some trick or hint that you overlooked.  Also, YouTube is full of useful videos on your particular radio. You should be listening to your scanner in the background while you are doing other things.20150517_003007

headphones and a notebook help

headphones and a notebook help

This will help you to multitask and develop your “listening filters”. Your listening filters are selective; hearing that helps you to perk up when an address or indicator is broadcast.  After a while, you will be able to listen and go about your everyday things. Traffic is fast paced and as a novice intercept operator, you need to focus until your skill set is developed. Even if you don’t have a scanner that is compatible with your local radio system, there is still a lot to listen to. Most fire dispatch and some police dispatch are still broadcast analog.  Only thing is, if you miss the first call, it’s too late. The call goes out once and you better be listening. Long story is, beg, borrow or sell something to afford the radio you need to keep you on top of the situation. Find out what is going on around you. The only way to know for sure is to hear it for yourself. Do this now. Don’t wait. Time is of the essence. When times get tough, these skills will set you apart from all of the sheep. Intel is the only way to win in a game where you’re out gunned. Dialtone OUT.20150517_005502


6 thoughts on “Listening Skill Set

  1. One thing I have noticed since I started monitoring my pro668 is how much detailed info I am missing due to people(popo) use cells to communicate traffic they wish to remain more or less private. Also they go to “incident” channels when they are involved in significant operations, either multi officer or action oriented responses. Routine traffic stops, disturbances, etc. are routed through the dispatcher. I am guessing these incident channels might be tac channel and I wonder why I am unable to copy those. I am not using a discone antenna for reception only the rubber duck. Still learning the capabilities of this scanner.


  2. Well let’s see. It depends on what radio system you are monitoring. If it’s a trunking system (computer controlled), you should be able to hear all tac channels unless they are encrypted. If it’s an analog system, hearing the field units will depend on your proximity to the incident. first find out what the system is then we can help you work out the rest. Good luck! Keep listening. …


  3. Pingback: Listening Skill Set | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  4. Some of us are remedial. A basic 1,2,3, choices of good cheap radios. Good cheap radios paired with antennas. And what to expect from each radio. And any jargon usage defined.

    If one is not at all familiar with radio it’s a big WTF?


    • Well if you are starting off the first thing you need to do is find out what type of radio system your local police, fire, ems etc. are using. This can be found out by using the Internet and checking
      After checking radio reference or any other Internet source you will then know if you need a newer digital radio or if a older analog scanner will work. Digital radios can be expensive so find out first. If you can’t afford the radio you need, anything is better than nothing. The older used analog scanners will still get you started. You can get a base or portable unit, depends on your operating requirements. As far as antennas go, there are many to choose from. You can run the one that comes on the unit but it will have limited performance. Companies like comet and diamond make antennas for ham radios and they work great as scanner antennas (just make sure you get the right connector ). Even “race” scanners will work. Check ebay and craigslist for bargains. I hope this helps. Keep reading the blog, I will be doing more post about scanning and gear. You can also come to class:
      Good luck!
      Dialtone OUT.


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