Police scanners turn into a hobby for many

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – For emergency responders, scanning radio frequencies is an essential way to communicate, but for many everyday folks, listening to the scanner is a hobby.
Saltillo’s Jim Foster had always been interested in getting a scanner so when a friend offered to trade him one, he took the deal.
“It’s just interesting to hear what’s going on,” Foster said.
He and his wife, Angela, often turn the scanner on while cooking and eating dinner.
“We don’t have a TV in the kitchen so if we’re sitting in the kitchen doing anything – cooking, paying bills or eating dinner – we have the scanner on,” she said. “It’s kind of like the news, only a lot more informative sometimes.”
The Fosters have a handheld scanner, much like a two-way radio.
Stores like Radio Shack carry scanners ranging from $200 to $400 that are capable of picking up most emergency response radio frequencies and have weather alert stations.
The frequencies are used to dispatch ambulances, fire crews and police officers but so much more goes over the airways. For example, Saturday morning, a Lee County firehouse sent out a happy fourth birthday wish to a child named Max.
Groups like emergency management agencies also use radio frequencies to transmit messages which can be beneficial to residents during disasters and weather emergencies.
“Sometimes it can be a little frightening but it’s good know they’re out there and taking care of things you don’t hear about,” Angela Foster said. “Usually at night, we get a big laugh out of it or on the weekend. The police might say, ‘This place over here has a big crowd so we’ll be busy tonight,’ or something like that. You pick up on little funny things like that.”
Foster said the scariest call she’s ever heard came a few years ago when someone walked off with someone else’s child at Ballard Park. She said police offers quickly found the child and she couldn’t help but feel a little satisfaction.
Websites like RadioReference.com give scanner users a list of frequencies used by emergency services, airports, businesses and military groups all over the country.
Some agencies and organizations opt to put a digital version of their radio feed on the Internet where anyone can listen, without a radio scanner. Some of these feeds can also be found at RadioReference.com.
jb.clark@journalinc.com