Like Action? Listen to Police and Fire Scanners

By  |  Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 7:57 am

Steve Bass's TechBiteI started to write about ways to glean info in a national disaster. I’ll get to that in another story, because as I dug around, I discovered live scanner feeds. You know the kind–police, fire and rescue, forest service, emergency services — and I wiped out an afternoon glued to the broadcasts.

I listened to the Newcastle, Australia police struggling with a jaywalker and then handling a robbery attempt; later heard the Thurston County, WA police nab a parole violator; and finally downloaded a clip from a recent pursuit of a guy shooting at a Snohomish County, Washington, sheriff deputy.

Fascinating stuff, indeed.

Some of the links will lead you to sites where you can listen to scanners across the nation (and even overseas). For instance, the Icecast Directory lists about 100 scanner sites all over the United States. Choose a scanner and click on the “M3U” link to listen in Windows Media Player. Dig around and you’ll be able to listen to the Irvine, California fire department, San Bernardino County Sheriff, or the Houston, Texas police.

ScanAmerica offers a map of the U.S. Click on a state and work your way through the assorted counties and cities with online scanners. I was able to find the Flathead County’s sheriff and fire in Kalispell, Wyoming. You can also try the Snohomish County, Washington emergency services fire and police scanner Web page.

The Incident Broadcast Network does a good job of helping novices figure out how to listen to scanner broadcasts. When you get to the site, you’ll immediately hear a scanner; the broadcast changes daily. I heard the Thurston County, Washington feed. (Turn it off by clicking the Pause button on the player in the upper left “Welcome to IBN” box.) The site also has clips from some of the more exciting feeds you can download, such as the Monroe, Washington Pursuit with Shots Fired or a San Diego, California Foot Pursuit. has a listing of foreign scanning Web sites. It’s where I found Newcastle, Australia (not very active, but a hoot when it was broadcasting; I couldn’t understand half of it…).

Don’t get rattled when you encounter the gyrations you may have to go through to listen to some of these feeds. One site may make it easy by having a player right on the site; other feeds will automatically open Windows Media Player. Police-Scanner, a very good site, requires that you click Control-U in Windows Media Player and copy and paste in the scanner’s link. And don’t be surprised if some feeds are inactive, or limit the number of people logged on at any one time.

In a future story, I’ll pick up where I left off, with tech tips for hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters. In the meantime, I’ve gotta go. There’s a cat in a tree in East Yuhupitz, Montana and the fire department’s rolling.

[This post is excerpted from Steve’s TechBite newsletter. If you liked it, head here to sign up–it’s delivered on Wednesdays to your inbox, and it’s free.]


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. StantheMan Says:

    hey.. cool stuff.. thanks for the links and insight…

  2. Dave Zatz Says:

    Man, I used to do this as a bored college kid in the early 90s. Also back then they had just started protecting cellular conversations, but a little soldering on updated scanners would still let you continue to listen in I believe. (I wasn’t the geek, I was the friend of the geek who listened in.)

  3. Brett Glass Says:

    Er, Steve: Kalispell is in Montana.

  4. Xavier Says:

    I’ve done this before to listen to see what my brother’s up to while working- exciting stuff like busting drug dealers, chasing cars, etc.

  5. Office Barbrady Says:

    I love listening to my scanners!

2 Trackbacks For This Post

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