Tips For Remotely Monitoring Live Events With A Scanner

Some tips for covering live events remotely using a scanner or scanner feed.

Tips For Remotely Monitoring Live Events With A Scanner

Please read this thread on information sharing during protests first.

Yet another instance of me taking a Twitter thread and making it more readable! And by readable I mean an unordered list.

I've spent a lot of my COVID related free time listening to scanners and posting anything interesting on Twitter. This has lead to "covering" multiple protests from the perspective of what I hear on the scanner feed. I even started a Broadcastify feed for the Boston Police Department. So when someone asked for a some advice on monitoring feeds remotely I did my best to help.

Boston Police Live Audio Feed
Boston Police Live Audio Feed on

The big tl;dr on covering any sort of major event remotely using a scanner is that what you hear on the scanner doesn't always accurately reflect reality. Take everything with a grain of salt. When posting direct quotes are best and phrases like "reports of", "appears that" and "per dispatch" should be used as well.

  • If you don't have access to a physical scanner then Broadcastify is a great place to find feeds though they may not always be targeted to a specific area/channel.
    • You're also not going to hear everything. Certain channels (such as dedicated tactical ones) are not allowed per Broadcastify Terms of Service.
  • Depending on what channels you are monitoring you are going to hear names, license numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers, license plate numbers, etc. Locations of units and crowds are one thing but don't post PII (Personally identifiable information).
  • Related to the tl;dr above. You're probably going to get corrected by people on the ground. It happens as scanner != truth all the time.
  • If you are listening to feeds on the web know that not everything will be protest related. For example my Broadcastify feed has all the district channels plus the Citywide channel. So unless I hold on the Citywide channel there will be district dispatch mixed in.
    • A great example of this is the Boston Metro Area Police and Fire - West Broadcastify channel. It includes four MSP troops, thirteen other towns and Boston Fire dispatch. Great channel to listen to if you want to know what's going on in general but a lot of noise during an event.
  • If something you hear seems wildly different and you aren't using an app that shows tags take a moment to verify since it might not be event related.
    • Exception: things that would impact safety of those on the ground. For example if you hear a BOLO for a car from a shooting probably good to let people know.
  • Some miscellaneous things
    • Use hashtags, especially for updates that impact those on the ground.
    • Keeping an eye on the hashtags is a great way to verify things. Though watch out for disinformation. Multiple sources are best.
    • If there are news copters up try to find their live streams.
    • The stock antenna on the UV-5R can pick up most of the BPD frequencies. They have a strong transmitter

Honestly the best way to monitor a live event remotely is with a device you can control yourself. That way you aren't beholden to the whims of someone else. The cheapest way to do this for Boston Police is with a UV-5R or similar device. See my other guide for getting started with that.

The Baofeng UV-5R and You
A tutorial on how to use the Baofeng UV-5R to monitor conventional radio channels around you. Like at a protest.

You can also find CHIRP UV-5R configuration files for Boston Police here. I'd be happy to build CSVs or img files for a CHIRP compatible radio as well. Shoot me a DM on Twitter or email me at ethan AT farewell-ladmin DOT com.

If you own a Uniden scanner supported by FreeSCAN or Uniden Sentinel I'd be happy to help by sending over my Boston Police configuration files or helping you build one for your area.