Unless your scanner's a complete pile of shit, it should at least cover 29-54 MHz, 108-136 MHz, and 406-512 MHz. My Bearcat 800xlt, for instance, covers 29-54, 118-174, 406-512, and 806-912 MHz. If your scanner covers the 800 MHz-and-up band you're in luck. I'm not going to go into the theory of radio waves, etc. because it'd take way too long and not even give the subject adequate coverage. Buy a book. Also, if your scanner came with one of those telescopic antennas, while being adequate, I would suggest running down to your local Radio Shack and picking up one of their $20 outside antennas and putting it up as high as you can get it (outside of course).
The first thing I would suggest is picking up the latest copy of Police Call. This fine book comes in nine volumes, one volume for each region of the country. Therein are loads of frequencies that the editors have leeched from the FCC. Most of your local police, fire, ambulance, etc. frequencies can be found in there. There are other guides, but Police Call can be found at your local Rat Shack and everybody has one of those piece of shit stores in their town.
Now, while I have all the ho-hum fire, police, ambulance, etc. frequencies plugged into my scanner, they are by far the least interesting. (At the end of this file is a list of what I have programmed into my scanner.) Following are some of the more interesting things to listen to:
WIRELESS MICROPHONES: These little beauties are usually broadcasting in the 72-76 Mhz range. These can be anything from the little spy devices to the microphone a concert singer uses on stage. If your scanner has a search function, plug the 72-76 range in and see what you come up with. (This information is from a fellow I know at work, my cheap-ass scanner doesn't cover it.) Also, the FCC has allocated 169.45, 169.505, 170.245, 170.305, 171.405, 171.105, 171.845, and 171.905 for use with wireless mikes. I actually found a local delivery service running between 169.5 and 170.0 MHz. I have yet to hear anything interesting but I live in a boring town.
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STUFF: Here are some areas the feds hang out on (all in MHz): 29.90-30.55, 32.01-32.99, 34.01-34.99, 36.01-36.99, 38.27-38.99, 40.01-41.99, and anywhere between 100 and 400 MHz. The best thing to do is set your scanner up to search those pairs awhile every day and see what comes up. For instance, 165.375 Mhz is supposedly the nationwide command post frequency for the Secret Service. The FBI is supposed to run between 163 and 168 MHz.
CORDLESS PHONES: This is why I own a scanner. A common misconception which some people make is that why they ratchet-jaw on their phone all day from the backyard on their cordless, the conversation is as secure as if they were talking on a regular phone. Nada! The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 prohibits the listening of cellular conversations. It does not, however, cover cordless phones. Who cares. Set your scanner on Search and plug in the frequency range of 46.61 and 46.97 MHz. Sooner or later one of your neighbors is going to start flapping her mouth and you're going to hear it. Write that frequency down and when the conversation is done, start again. Pretty soon you'll have the frequencies for all your neighbors. An example is this little fifteen-year-old bitch that lives next to me. She's on the phone all the time gabbing with her boyfriend. For a fifteen-year-old some of the shit gets juicy. Who knows, someday it might be good blackmail material. The exact cordless frequencies are 46.61, 46.63, 46.67, 46.71, 46.73, 46.77, 46.83, 46.87, 46.93, and 46.97. Be persistent and you will eventually find a phone close to you.
RADIO PHONES: These are the regular radio phones that have been around forever and ever. With cellular being so fucking expensive this service has been gaining in popularity. Search between 460 and 470 MHz to find the frequencies used in your area. 463.75 and 464.12 are used a lot by construction people up here in my area. You'll also hear a lot of pagers mixed in with the phone frequencies. If you can't hear anything else you should be able to hear something between 460 and 470. Here again, some cool stuff can sometimes be heard amongst the long-winded assholes. My local police department has its own radio phones on 461.35 MHz, and a lot of good shit comes over that frequency. Most of your land-mobile business use is in this area also. The above frequencies are where I hear a lot of them. That doesn't mean that's the law. I've heard them in other bands, but between 460 and 470 Mhz is the most prevalent up here.
CELLULAR PHONES: Lately there's been a lot of hype about the privacy of cellular calls. Of course, they're just as easy to hear as cordless and radio phones. I tend to concentrate my scanning between 850 and 870 MHz when searching for cellular calls, though many calls are carried at another bandwith for which it's illegal to sell scanners that can reach those frequencies. However, there are mods for many scanners to let them receive these frequencies. You can find out where to get this info for your particular scanner from ads in the back of ham magazines and some t-files. Back to 850-870, it's impossible to search for one particular phone call or company. For instance, you won't be able to depend like I do on 461.35 MHz for good stuff all the time. However there are usually so many calls going on in any metro area that there is plenty to hear. There are many interesting t-files on the layout of the 800 Mhz band that go way beyond the scope of this introductory file, but if there's enough response I can type one up that goes more in depth on cellular listening.
Other interesting shit you oughtta know:
TUNING THE 406-420 MHZ BAND: These are some of the nastier US Government frequencies. However, if your scanner is a cheap piece of shit it won't cover them. Look in the manual that came with your scanner for the intermediate frequency (IF). 2 x IF = "magic number." Take that magic number and tune to the result. For example, your IF is 10.8 (other common IF's are 10.7 and 10.85) and you want to tune 407 MHz. Add 21.6 (2 x 10.8) to 407.00 and you get 428.600 and you'd tune that. The reception kind of sucks but it beats buying a new scanner.
The following are some of the frequencies that I have programmed into my scanner or written down in my notes (for Boise, Idaho). All frequencies in Mhz:
453.300 - Boise Police Department Ch. A
453.350 - Boise Police Department Ch. B
453.425 - Boise Police Department Ch. C
453.475 - Boise Police Department Ch. D
460.450 - Ada County Sheriff (primary)
460.225 - Ada County Sheriff (information)
460.275 - Ada County Sheriff (car to car)
460.100 - Idaho State Police
460.300 - Idaho State Police
465.275 - Mutual All Call
154.430 - Boise Fire Department
155.265 - Ada County EMS (ambulance)
155.055 - Lifeflight (helicopter rescue)
155.760 - Idaho State Penitentiary
159.390 - Idaho Fish & Game
460.050 - Nampa Police Department
460.175 - Caldwell Police Department
460.325 - Canyon County Sheriff
460.375 - Gem County Sheriff
460.475 - Elmore County Sheriff
460.500 - Owyhee County Sheriff
118.100 - aircraft, Boise tower
119.000 - aircraft, Boise tower
119.600 - aircraft, Boise departure/approach (south)
121.700 - aircraft, Boise ground control
122.800 - uncontrolled local airports
126.900 - aircraft, Boise departure/approach (north)
152.030 - mobile phone
152.090 - mobile phone
153.010 - taxi service
154.430 - mobile phone
161.135 - Police mobile phone (juicy)
145.260 - ham 2-meter repeater
30.102 - McDonald's drive-up window
30.840 - Taco Bell drive-up window
30.860 - Burger King drive-up window
157.650 - taxi service
162.550 - NOAA Weather Service
160.400- 160.65 - railroad stuff
164.500 - Boise Air National Guard Security
Those are the ones I mainly listen to.
"So, Hatter, why should I care about this shit?" Well, for instance say you have your local pigs plugged into your scanner. You get kind of an appreciation (not much but some) for the shit they put up with every day. Tons of family fights, panicky old women, etc. are the majority of the stuff going on up here. If you're doing something where it'd be good to know where the police are or if someone's made a report about your activities, you'll be aware and can react before a police car comes barrelling in on you. The point is, you hear it first while it's happening. Interested in aircraft? Plug in your local airport frequencies. If you live by an Air Force Base, thats even better. Like to go and watch shit burn? Plug in your local fire and ambulance frequencies and find out where the latest human tragedies are. Want to fuck up your neighbor? If s/he has a cordless phone eventually you can come up with some primo blackmail info. Last week a guy tried outrunning the pigs for three or so counties. It was pretty damn exciting to listen to. For you hacks, I'm in the process of figuring out how to hook a touch-tone decoder up to my scanner. It should prove interesting finding out what some of those people are dialing.
To finish up, here is a kind of overview in MHz of the VHF/UHF band and generally what can be found where:
30-49 - long range communications
49 - walkie-talkies, like the Spidey one you had when you were 5
50-54 - six-meter amateur (ham)
54-88 - television channels 2-6
72-76 - radio controlled vehicles (airplanes, cars, etc.)
88-108 - FM broadcast stations
108-135 - aircraft
136-138 - weather satellites
144-148 - two-meter amateur
156.050-157.425 - marine
162-174 - Federal agencies (Customs, FCC, etc.)
174-216 - television channels 7 - 13
220-225 - ham
420-450 - ham
462 - CB, garage door openers, etc.
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