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Radio Monitoring - A How To Guide

Radio monitoring can be a fun hobby and can keep you informed in cases of emergency. There are many types of radio services available to the casual listener. Fire, Police, Sheriff's, Emergency Medical Services (EMS for short) all, are easy to listen too and garner the most attention from the casual and survival listener.

Radio Monitoring

Only requiring a radio scanner, that is available at most department store's, You too can begin radio monitoring yourself. You can listen to local emergency radio traffic and know what is happening in your local community. You can tune into NOAA weather radio to obtain current weather conditions, the weather forecast and also listen to local HAM radio operators.

Radio Monitoring - A How To Guide-old short wave radio


The different LF to UHF bands have different uses and different types of communications. From over seas broadcasts to your local public service agency's, there is always something to listen to.

VHF and UHF Bands

Radio monitoring in these very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) bands are line of sight frquencys of the radio spectrum and as a consequence can only be used for short distance communication. In order to get more usable distance, police, Sheriff's, EMS and radio HAM's use another piece of radio equipment called a repeater. A repeater is exactly what the name implies. It receives a radio signal on one frequency and repeats it back out on another frequency. A repeaters antenna is usually located on a radio tower and high on a hill or on a tall building. Placing the repeater antenna in an elevated location helps to receive and transmit a stronger radio signal over a larger area.

When radio monitoring, most VHF and UHF signals are frequency modulated (FM). Much like the FM wide band radio receiver in your car, emergency services and HAM radio operators use FM narrow band, to communicate. With the use of filters, a more narrow area of radio frequency is used in emergency services to allow closer frequency separation and in turn more usable frequency's in an already crowded band.

You will find voice and digital signals in the VHF and UHF bands consisting of FM, SSB (single side band) voice and digital using packet.

The generally accepted VHF frequency range is 30-300 MHz. UHF is 300-3000 MHz.

Listening To HF and LF HAM And Short Wave Broadcasts

In order to listen to HAM radio operators and short and long wave broadcast stations, you will need a radio capable of receiving and demodulating amplitude modulated (AM) and single side band (SSB) signals. These types of radios can be purchased from electronic stores or ordered on line from Amazon. If you are planing on becoming a HAM radio operator, most HF HAM radios, or as they are known by amateur radio operators(HAM operators) as rigs, receive the LF to HF bands.

Short wave (SWL) radios can be purchased in compact battery operated designs up to large rack mounted radios.

radio monitoring-short wave recever

HAM radios can be bought in mobile and base station designs. These types of radios require an external antenna.

radio monitoring-kenwood HF transceiver


HF Band

Radio monitoring in the  high frequency (HF) band is where you will find long distance communications. Depending on time of day, atmospheric and solar conditions, these are the bands you can receive radio signals from across the state, across the sea or the other side of the world depending on the frequency used.

Radio Monitoring - A How To Guide-radio tower

HF communications are truly world wide. In the not to distant past, world governments, HAM radio operators, militarys, television networks, the phone company(Bell Telephone and AT&T), ships at sea, airlines and news services used high frequency (HF) communications to accomplish their tasks. Sometimes using phone (microphone or voice) but more often using telegraphy (CW or better known as Morse code), world governments, HAM radio operators, militarys, media, communications, shipping and airline companys and spy's used and some still use HF radio to operate. There is still a great deal of HAM radio activity and short and long wave broadcast stations in the the HF bands.

You will find voice and digital signals in the HF band consisting of AM, SSB (single side band) voice and digital using radio teletype (RTTY), AMTOR, PACTOR, FAX, HF PACKET, PSK31 Morse code and other digital modes. There are digital modems and computer programs available to decipher these signals and display them on your computer screen.

The HF band is the 3-30 MHz range.

LF Band

Radio monitoring in the low frequency (LF) band is where you will find amplitude modulated (AM) broadcast stations in the US and over seas. You will also find Ham radio operations, radio navigation, time and military communications. This can be a useful band to listen to.

Radio Monitoring - A How To Guide-radio broadcast

You will find voice and digital signals in the LF band consisting of AM, SSB (single side band) voice and digital using radio teletype (RTTY), AMTOR, PACTOR, FAX, HF PACKET, PSK31 Morse code and other digital modes. There are digital modems and computer programs available to decrypt these signals and display these messages on your computer screen.

LF broadcasts are in the 30-300 KHz frequency range.

VLF Band

Home of the US Navy submarine communications, some radio location services, government radio time signals and secure military radio communications, the very low frequency band is not practical for use for phone (voice) communications. This band is most often used for digital communication with a slow bit rate. The VLF band is very dependable for world wide communication day or night but there is a great deal of atmospheric interference and is not practical for use by most people due to the huge antenna and equipment requirements.

ELF Band

The extremely low frequency (ELF) band is the home of scientific research and the Russian and Indian Navy's submarine operations. The United States Navy discontinued use of ELF communication late in 2004 due to it's high power requirements, unbelievably long antennas (14 to 28 miles) needed and a host of other difficulty's required to operate an ELF system. ELF frequency's have very limited use and are not worth your time to attempt to use.


Radio monitoring is an enjoyable hobby and can be a source of important information in an emergency.

You can download a graphic chart of US frequency allocations by using this link.

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Stormy Weather Being Informed Of Quickly Developing Weather Around You - Storm Week

Stormy Weather

Being informed of quickly developing stormy weather and tornadoes around you can be a life saver. The information obtained from public services frequency's, Police, Sheriff's, Fire and EMS, can be a good source of information. The use of  radio scanner to obtain current information about any disaster or developing weather situations is an indispensable tool in your prepper tool box.



A useful link to a nation wide frequency data base is Radio Reference.  There are other data bases available but this one is east to use. You click on your state, then on your county or parish. The website will show a list of the county and city frequency's. Simply enter the listed frequency's into your scanner and you will be able to listen to the local public service agencies, if they are using analog equipment. Unless you are a regular listener, you will be surprised about what and how much activity is going on around you at any given time. From the mundane to the insane.

∗ Be aware that some towns, cities, counties and states use trunked and or digital radio systems. Scanners that are capable of receiving trunked communications are only a little more expensive than a standard analog scanner. Scanners that can receive digital signals are often three times as expensive. Also be aware that some digital signals are also digitally encrypted and as such, are difficult for an electronics cryptologist to break and is also illegal to do so.

Ham Radio

Some areas have an active weather net that operates mostly on the 2 meter band of amateur radio (144.000 MHz-148.000 MHz). These networks are full of trained weather spotters. When activated, they call in the present conditions from their area during stormy weather to the net control over the net frequency. The information is often forwarded to the National Weather Service. Now you know how the weather service gets some of their information about current conditions in individual areas. They are also trained weather spotters. They are sometimes asked to visually check storm cells for wall clouds and other tornadic activity when they are seeing atmospheric circulation on radar. Check with a Ham Radio Operator in your area to see if there is an active weather net in your area. You can listen in on your scanner.

Digital Encryption

Digital encryption is a two edge sword. I have seen times that the general public, listening to analog police traffic and becoming aware of a fleeing dangerous criminal running through their neighborhood, being a tremendous help in capturing a dangerous criminal. I have also saw times that someone listening to radio traffic, notify a Wife, Husband, Mom, Dad, Sister or brother of an accident in which their loved one is killed. No one deserves to be notified of the death of a loved one that way.

stormy weather

NOAA Alert Radio

NOAA weather radio can be listened to at any time of the day or night for present and forecast conditions. You can listen on your regular analog scanner. NOAA also has a warning system that activates your weather radio by tones. The tones will turn it on for emergency broadcasts. These radios are available for purchase at most department stores. They are user programmable for each individual county or parish in all the states. These radios are designed to alert anyone who has one of these models in their home or work place, of impending storms or tornadoes. These radios also notify you of AMBER alerts and any other stormy weather related information including extreme cold or extreme hot temperatures and earthquakes. They are designed for you to program a county code for your area so you will only be notified if your area is in a path of an impending storm. When activated, the tones will wake you up from a deep sleep, allowing you and your family to seek shelter.

NOAA Weather Radio Frequencies

The NOAA weather radio towns and frequencies list for your area are at the NOAA weather radio website. Click on your state, then on your town or a town closest to the west of you. There are only seven NOAA weather radio frequencies to cover the entire nation. The transmitters and tones are coordinated in such a way as to have minimal interference with each other.

Weather Radio Frequencies

162.400 MHz
162.425 MHz
162.450 MHz
162.475 MHz
162.500 MHz
162.525 MHz
162.550 MHz

Indispensable Asset

Weather radio can be an indispensable asset in your survival preps and a life saver during storms.


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