Like something from Meat Loaf's 1977 classic rock tune "Paradise by the Dashboard Light", scanner enthusiasts tend to be seen as less worthy of esteem than your garden variety radio listener tuning the latest Lady Gaga track...I dunno...
I say "Police Scanner" when I really mean "Wide Band Communications Receiver" Everyone knows what a Police Scanner is, when I say "Wide Band Communications Receiver", I always gets bank stares.
I've been a "Radio Guy" since I can remember, but I've only recently added a scanner to my shack. Living in snow country, and going to work all winter at midnight, the immediacy of the scanner is invaluable. Even in the Internet Age, the scanner has the edge if it's timely traffic and road conditions that you seek.
BajaBabe wondered if it was legal to listen to Police Communications...it is. While I do scan the local CHP and Sheriff's Department frequencies, I don't hear many...
This may be due to many things. Hell, I may have Blocked their channel during a particularly long, boring set of comms when I was actively monitoring someone else's comms. It may be that since Truckee incorporated, most of the local Law Enforcement traffic moved to the Truckee Police, who I've never bothered to add to my scanned freqs. Truth be told, the police freqs don't give me the info I want.
In the winter, I monitor the Town of Truckee snowplows, CalTrans, and the local Fire Departments. I can get an accurate picture of road conditions, and sometimes know before the fact, when a new berm will be plowed into my driveway! If I'm suited up and ready with the snowblower when the plow berms my driveway, the berm blows away much easier than after it sets up.
I also scan the local Ski Resorts, and Search and Rescue. I heard a SAR comm the other evening saying: "We've got all five people, and we're loading them into the snowcat" I couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, so I didn't know where the rescue took place.
When I first started scanning, I listened to the Tow Truck freqs. Again the tip of the spear, these guys were always out in front of breaking road news...after a while though, I had to quit listening to them...they were a bunch of snarky motormouths who never shut up! When those guys cranked it up, it was snarky good fun, but no other comms could get through!
For the past few years, I've only cranked up the scanner during storm periods, and during Monsoon conditions during the summertime.
When the High Sierra is getting lots of lightning, hearing the Fire Calls and the Fire Lookouts calling HQ with lightning and smoke reports is very compelling listening. When there's an active wildfire nearby, that's pretty interesting too...the DaveCave is in a heavily wooded subdivision and it's good to have a little notice if there's a wildfire coming your way!
I use the scanner every September when I head out to the Reno National Championship Air Races. I listen to the Pace Plane Pilot leading the racers onto the race course. He gets them lined up and bunched together tightly, brings them "down the chute" and says: "Gentlemen, you have a race"!
Before I went to bed today, a channel I scan had a stuck mic. After two minutes of straight static, I turned the scanner off. Chain controls are over for now, and the snowfall is done for the next few days, so the scanner will get some rest.
Radio Silence...sounds good!