Scanning 101

All About Police Scanners via Scanner Master

What are scanners?
A scanner is a radio receiver that checks ("scans") many channels quickly to allow you to listen to two-way radio calls. Two-way radios, used by police, fire and others, use short transmissions that occur on thousands of radio channels.

There are many different types of scanners and it can get kind of confusing to decide the right one for you. Fortunately the experts at Scanner Master can help! Just call us at 1-800-SCANNER or email us and we can help you decide.

Another thing to remember is that once you buy a scanner you can learn more about how to use it as you go. Get the basics down now and learn about the more advanced features later if you wish. Whether the police scanner is for yourself, a relative or friend, the great thing about scanners is that you can use them at a basic level just to listen to your local agencies or one can immerse him or herself in the details of the scanner features and in the hobby and exploration of radio itself. A police scanner can be simply interesting and informative, entertaining or even provide you with a lifetime hobby if you so desire.

There are several factors to consider when picking the right scanner. We have boiled it down to 3 questions to simplify your choice:

Form Factor:
Do you want a desktop, portable or a scanner for your vehicle?

Do the communications you want to listen to use digital, analog, trunked or conventional radios? If you don't know call or email and we can look it up for you. This helps determine whether you need an advanced or basic scanner. (See the FAQ link below for more details on the types of scanners available.)

We have scanners that program by location, just enter your ZIP Code and the radio will self-program from an internal database. We also have scanners that program the old fashioned way, with a keyboard. Some even allow both methods, start with the ZIP Code and then learn how to program it yourself later (or not!). Most scanners will allow the use of computers to program them. Whether you are a scanner expert or just want to listen to your local action we can help.

Why do I want or need a scanner?
Most people who buy a scanner do so to hear what is happening around them. They want to hear their local police or fire departments and know what is happening in their neighborhoods. Other scanner users have a professional need, police and firefighters want to hear their own agency when off duty and neighboring agencies when they are on the job. Tow trucks want to know when there are wrecks in which they are needed. Security guards need to listen for activity in their areas, and so on.

What can I listen to?
Most people who buy scanners want to listen to their local police and fire calls. While they are often called "Police Scanners", there is a lot more to listen to if you want. Here is a selection of other users you could listen to on a scanner (depending on your proximity to the agency and the power and type of radio system they are using):

  • Police (Local Police, County Sheriff, State Police and Highway Patrol)
  • Fire Departments
  • EMS/Rescue Squads/Hospital
  • Road and Street Departments
  • Railroads
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Military
  • Schools and Universities
  • Utilities (Water, Gas, Electric etc.)
  • Malls and stores
  • Stadiums

How do I get started?
That's where Scanner Master comes in. We not only sell scanners and accessories, but we also help you get going.

First we make sure you get the right scanner. We pride ourselves in helping our customers choose and use the right scanners for nearly 40 years. We have scanner experts on staff to assist. None of the huge online retailers can do that.

Second we help you setup your scanner. Scanners need to be properly programmed for the area in which they'll be used and "ZIP Code" scanners need to have the database updated from time to time. We can help you with these or you can do it yourself.

Finally, we are there to help when you need us. Once you buy from us we don't abandon you. We can help answer questions or at least point you to resources that you can use. Need a new antenna or software or just have a question? Call or email us!

The Uniden Bearcat Trunktracker V BCD996P2

The Uniden Bearcat Trunktracker V BCD996P2

Allegany County Fire

Allegany County Fire Personnel:

AL-51:  County Fire Coordinator 

AL-52:  Deputy County Fire Coordinator

DC-1:  District 1 Fire Coordinator 

DC-2:  District 2 Fire Coordinator

DC-3:  District 3 Fire Coordinator

DC-4:  District 4 Fire Coordinator

DC-5:  District 5 Fire Coordinator

DC-6:  District 6 Fire Coordinator

HM-1:  HazMat Coordinator

HM-2:  HazMat Coordinator

HM-3:  HazMat Coordinator

FI-2:  Senior Fire Investigator

FI-3:  Fire Investigator

FI-4:  Fire Investigator

FI-5:  Fire Investigator

FI-6:  Fire Investigator

FI-7:  Senior Fire Investigator

FI-8:  Fire Investigator

FI-9:  Senior Fire Investigator

FI-10:  Fire Investigator

FI-11:  Senior Fire Investigator

FI-12:  Fire Investigator

Allegany County Fire Districts:

District 1:  Angelica, Belfast, Centerville, Fillmore, Houghton, Oramel, Rushford, Short Tract, & Wiscoy-Rossburg

District 2:  Cuba, Clarksville, Friendship, & New Hudson

District 3:  Belmont, Scio/Petrolia, Wellsville, Whitesville, & Willing

District 4:  Alfred, Alfred Station, Almond, & Andover

District 5:  Birdsall & Canaseraga

District 6:  Allentown, Alma, Bolivar, & Richburg  

Allegany County Radio Identifiers:




4-Mini Pumper (Except for Wellsville, 4 is an Engine)

5-Chief Officers (5-0/5-01/5-02/5-03)

6-Miscellaneous (Rescue/Brush Trucks/ATVs, etc.)

7-Tankers (7/7-01/7-02)

8-Ambulance (8/8-01/8-02)


10-ALS Personal 

Allegany County Fire Cause & Origin Codes:

Code 1:  Accidental

Code 2:  Natural

Code 3:  Incendiary

Code 4:  Undetermined

Code +9:  Fatality

Code +99:  Fire Fighter Fatality


Cattaraugus County Fire

Cattaraugus County Unit Designations:

C-100:  Fire Coordinator

C-200:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

Deputy#:  District Coordinators

FI#:  Fire Investigators (CATTFIT)

395:  Fire Dispatch

Cattaraugus County Apparatus Designations:

1:  Pumper  6:  Aerial

2:  Pumper  7:  Utility

3:  Pumper  8:  Ambulance

4:  Mini Pumper  9:  Unassigned

5:  Tanker  10:  ALS Intercept

Cattaraugus County Fire Districts:





Gowanda Ambulance   



South Dayton













Allegany Indian Reservation


Cattaraugus Ambulance


East Randolph

Kill Buck

Little Valley


Randolph Regional EMS

City of Salamanca


Allegany Engine Company

Allegany Rescue & EMS


Knapp Creek


City of Olean

Town of Olean

Tran Am Ambulance (Olean)


Weston Mills


East Otto


Ellicottville-Great Valley Ambulance

Great Valley




West Valley


Chautauqua County Fire

Chautauqua County Fire Personnel:

Car-7:    Fire Coordinator 

Car-71:  1stBattalion Coordinator

Car-72:  2ndBattalion Coordinator

Car 73:  3rdBattalion Coordinator

Car 74:  4thBattalion Coordinator

Car-75:  Deputy Coordinator/Battalions 1 & 2

Car-76:  Deputy Coordinator/Battalions 3 & 4

Car 77:  Deputy Coordinator/Battalion 4

Car-78:  Deputy Coordinator/EMS

Car-79:  Deputy Coordinator/Training

Car-80:  Deputy Coordinator/CCWET (Water Emergency Team)

Car-81:  Deputy Coordinator/HazMat 

Car-82:  Deputy Coordinator/Technical Rescue Team

F-70:  Fire Investigator

F-71:  Fire Investigator

F-72:  Fire Investigator

F-73:  Fire Investigator

F-74:  Fire Investigator

F-75:  Fire Investigator

F-76:  Fire Investigator

F-77:  Fire Investigator

F-78:  Fire Investigator

F-79:  Fire Investigator

F-80:  Fire Investigator

R-7:  Heavy Rescue

R-71:  Heavy Rescue

M-75:  Forest Ranger

A-77:  Airport CFR

M-80:  Starflight Helicopter

HazMat 7:  HazMat Team   

HazMat 71:  HazMat Team

HazMat 72:  HazMat Team

HazMat 73:  HazMat Team

HazMat 74:  HazMat Team

Chautauqua 1:  Emergency Management Director (Car-700) 

Chautauqua 4:  Van (Car-704)

Chautauqua 5:  Van (Car-705)  

Chautauqua 8:  Health Department  

Chautauqua 9:  Health Department 

Chautauqua10:  County Executive  

Chautauqua16:  Emergency Management Director 

Chautauqua County Fire Battalions:

First Battalion:  

00-Dunkirk FD

01-Fredonia FD (Chautauqua County Rescue 71)


11-East Dunkirk (HazMat Trailer)

12-West Dunkirk (Light Trailer & Special Ops Trailer)





17-Silver Creek/Emergency Squad (Special Ops Trailer & Disaster Response Unit)


19-Sunset Bay


60-South Dayton (Cattaraugus County)

Second Battalion:




23-Findley Lake







Third Battalion:





34-Frewsburg (Cattaraugus County)


36-Kiatone (Rehab Unit)



39-Sugar Grove

Fourth Battalion:


41-Cherry Creek

42-Ellery Center


44-Bemus Point

45-Fluvanna (Chautauqua County Rescue 7)



48-Maple Springs


Unit Designations are the fire department number followed by the Apparatus number 1. (Example: Cassadaga FD Chief is Car 101, Cassadaga Engine’s 101 & 102, etc.)


Erie County Fire

Erie County Emergency Service Personnel:

EC-1:  Erie County Executive

ES-1:  Commissioner of Emergency Services

FC-1:  Deputy Commissioner of Fire Safety

FC-3:  Deputy Coordinator of Fire Safety

MC-8:  Deputy Commissioner of EMS

MC-10:  Deputy Coordinator of ALS

MC-11:  EMS Coordinator for ALS Systems

EM-1:  Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Management

EM-2:  Emergency Services Coordinator

ES-11:  Emergency Services Chaplain 

ES-12:  Emergency Services Chaplain

ES-13:  Emergency Services Chaplain

ES-14:  Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Medical Services

F-71:    Radio Technician

F-76:    Radio Technician

City/Town Emergency Managers:

CD-122:  Lancaster Emergency Manager

CD-132:  Cheektowaga Emergency Manager

CD-132A:  Cheektowaga ES Coordinator

CD-134:  West Seneca Emergency Manager

CD-136:  Lancaster Village OEM Coordinator

CD-137  Depew Deputy Emergency Manager

CD-137A:  Depew Deputy Emergency Manager

CD-137B:  Depew Deputy Emergency Manager

CD-138:  Amherst Emergency Manager

CD-138A:  Assistant Amherst Emergency Manager

CD-143:  Boston Emergency Manager

CD-  Town of Tonawanda Emergency Manager

CD-  Clarence Emergency Manager 

CD  Clarence Area Director of Civil Defense

CD  Hamburg Emergency Manager

CD  Hamburg Deputy Emergency Manager

CD  Depew Deputy Emergency Manager

CD  Orchard Park Emergency Manager

CD  Elma Emergency Manager

CD  Elma Assistant Emergency Manager

CD  Evans Disaster Coordinator

CD  Evans Deputy Disaster Coordinator

CD  Newstead Emergency Services Coordinator

CD  Newstead Deputy ES Coordinator

CD  Newstead Deputy ES Coordinator

CD  Alden OEM Coordinator

SMART (Specialized Medical Assistance Response Team):

SMART-1:  Emergency Response Vehicle

SMART-2:  Emergency Response Vehicle

SMART-3:  Emergency Response Vehicle

MD-301:  SMART Team Physician

MD-305:  SMART Team Physician

MD-306:  SMART Team Physician

Emergency Vehicle Designations:

1:  Engine

2:  Engine

3:  Engine

4:  Engine

5:  Heavy Rescue/Utility Vehicles

6:  Aerial Trucks

7:  Heavy Rescue

7-1:  Light Rescue

7-2:  Light Rescue

7-3:  EMS Captain

9:  Chief

9-1:  Assistant Chief

9-2:  Assistant Chief

9-3:  Assistant Chief

9-4:  Assistant Chief

10:  District Chief

County Resources:

Air 1:  Erie County Sheriff’s Helicopter

Marine 1:  Erie County Sheriff’s Marine Unit

MOC-1:  ESU Mobile Command Post

MOC-2:  CPS Mobile Command Post

MOC-3:  ESU Mobile Command Post

HazMat1:  EC/HMRT Primary Response Vehicle


Genesee County Fire

Genesee County Fire Personnel:

GM-1:  Fire Coordinator 

GM-2:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

GM-3:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/Central Battalion

GM-4:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/Eastern Battalion

GM-5:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/Western Battalion

ESU-1:  Emergency Support Unit

ESU-2:  Emergency Command & Communications Vehicle

Genesee County Fire Battalions:

Central Battalion:  


20-City of Batavia: 

25-Town of Batavia: 




Eastern Battalion:





90-South Byron


Western Battalion:




56-East Pembroke

85-Indian Falls

Chief Designations are the fire department number followed by the number 1. Assistant Chiefs are the fire department number followed by a 2 or 3 (Example: Alexander FD Chief is Car 101, Assistant Chief Car 102, Assistant Chief Car 103


Livingston County Fire

Livingston County Fire Units:

C-1:    Fire Coordinator (Fire Investigator)

C-2:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

C-3:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

C-4:  Deputy Fire Coordinator (Fire Investigator)

C-5:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

C-6:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

C-7:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

C-8:  Deputy Fire Coordinator (Fire Investigator)

C-9:  Deputy Fire Coordinator

EMS-1:  EMS Coordinator

EMS-2:  Medical Director

HazMat 1:  Primary HazMat Response Vehicle (Heavy Rescue)

HazMat 2:  Secondary HazMat Vehicle

HazMat 5:  HazMat Support Vehicle (Pick Up with Trailer)

98 (0-9):  Coroner

Apparatus Designations:

3 Digit System:  4 Digit Systems:

1stDigit-Battalion  1stDigit-Battalion

2nd Digit-Department  2ndDigit-Department

3rdDigit-Apparatus Type  3rdDigit-Apparatus Type

 4thDigit-Specific Resource

3 Digit System:  4 Digit System:

0:  Boat  0:  Fire Officer

1:  Squad  6:  EMS Officer

2:  Grass Truck  7:  EMS First Responder

3:  Mini-Pumper  8:  Ambulance

4:  Engine  9:  Support Vehicle

5:  Engine/Mini Pumper

6:  Engine

7:  Tanker

8:  Aerial

9:  Rescue

Advanced Life Support Designations:

Medic 70:  Avon

Medic 71:

Medic 72:  Livingston County

Medic 73:

Medic 74:  Livonia

Medic 75:  Livonia

Medic 76:  

Medic 77:  Caledonia (Genesee Valley EMS)

Medic 78:  Livingston County

Medic 79:  Livingston County

*Additional techs may use 01/02/03/etc. (Example: Medic 7401/7401/7403)

Livingston County Fire Battalions:

First Battalion:

11:  Caledonia

12:  Caledonia EMS (Genesee Valley EMS)

13:  Leicester

15:  York EMS

16:  Cuylerville FD/Cuylerville EMS

17:  York 


Second Battalion:

21:  Lakeville

22:  Avon

23:  Lima

24:  Avon EMS

25:  Livonia

26:  Hemlock

27:  East Avon

28:  Lima EMS

29:  Livonia EMS

Third Battalion:

31:  Geneseo FD/Geneseo EMS

32:  Groveland

33:  SUNY Geneseo First Responders

34:  Conesus

Fourth Battalion:

41:  Mount Morris

42:  Nunda FD/Nunda EMS

43:  Mount Morris EMS

Fifth Battalion:

51:  Dansville FD/Dansville EMS

54:  Springwater FD/Springwater EMS

55:  Sparta

58:  West Sparta

Sixth Battalion:

62:  Livingston County EMS/Emergency Management

Car 1:  Fire Coordinator


Monroe County Fire

Monroe County Unit Designations:

3 Digit System:  4 Digit Systems:

1stDigit-Battalion  1stDigit-Battalion

2nd Digit-Department  2ndDigit-Department

3rdDigit-Apparatus Type  3rdDigit-Apparatus Type

 4thDigit-Specific Resource

3 Digit System:

C:  Chief

0:  Truck

2:  Engine

3:  Engine

4:  Engine

5:  Engine

6:  Misc.

7:  Squad

8:  Rescue

9:  Ambulance

Monroe County Special Ops Units:

Boat 8026: Zodiak

HazMat 8: Monroe County HazMat Team 

Special Ops 10: Collapse Unit/USAR

Monroe County Fire Battalions:

First Battalion:

10:  Webster

11:  Point Pleasant

12:  West Webster

13:  Union Hill

15:  St. Paul Boulevard

16:  Laurelton

18:  Ridge Culver

19:  Sea Breeze


Second Battalion:

20:  Lake Shore

21:  Morton

22:  Barnard

23:  Holley FD/Ambulance

24:  Hamlin FD/Ambulance

25:  Greece Ridge

26:  Hilton Parma

27:  North Greece

28:  Walker

29:  Spencerport

Third Battalion:

30:  Brighton

31:  Bushnell’s Basin

32:  East Rochester

33:  Egypt/Victor Farmington Ambulance (Ontario County)

34:  Fairport/Perinton Volunteer Ambulance Corp

35:  Fischers (Ontario County)

36:  Mendon

37:  Penfield/Penfield Volunteer Ambulance

38:  Pittsford/Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance

Fourth Battalion:

42:  Churchville/Bergen FD/Ambulance

43:  Chili/Chili Volunteer Ambulance

44:  Clifton

45:  Gates Fire District/Gates Volunteer Ambulance

46:  Scottsville FD/Rescue Squad

47:  Mumford/Caledonia FD & Ambulance


Fifth Battalion:

56:  Honeoye Falls/Mendon Ambulance/Lima FD & Ambulance

06:  Henrietta

61:  Henrietta Volunteer Ambulance

63:  Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Ambulance

Seventh Battalion:

70:  Kodak FD

71:  Xerox FD


Niagara County Fire

Niagara County Designations

32: Fire Coordinator

32-A: Assistant Director

32-1: Area 1 Deputy Coordinator

32-2: Area 2 Deputy Coordinator

32-3: Area 3 Deputy Coordinator

32-4: Area 4 Deputy Coordinator

32-5: Communications

32-6: Fire Investigator

32-8: HazMat Coordinator

32M1: Fire Investigation

Apparatus Type:

C: Chief

E: Engine

A: Aerial

T: Tanker

R: Ambulance

M: Miscellaneous


01: Adams 

02: Barker

03: Bergholtz

04: Cambria (2)

05: Frontier (2)

06: Gasport

07: Lewiston #1 (2)

08: Lewiston #2 

09: City of Lockport

Car 9C1: On Duty Chief

Car 9C2: On Duty Chief 

C#: On Duty Captain

L#: On Duty Lieutenant

Engine 7

Engine 8

Truck 9

10: Middleport

11: Newfane (Miller Hose)

12: Niagara Active


14: City of Niagara Falls

Engine 3

Engine 4/Truck 1

Engine 7/Truck 2

Engine 8

Engine 9

15: North Tonawanda

Truck Company No. 1 (Engine 7)

Columbia Hook & Ladder No. 1

Active Hose Company No. 2 (Water Rescue/Dive Boat)

Hook & Ladder No. 2 (Rescue 1)

Live Hose Company No. 4 (Engine 4)

Rescue Fire Company No. 5

Gratwick Hose Company No. 6 (Engine 6)

Sweeney Hose Company No. 7 (Truck 1/Car 10/Car 14)

16: Olcott

17: Pekin

18: Ransomville

19: Rapids (2)

20: St. Johnsburg

21: Sanborn

22: Shawnee (2)

23: South Lockport (2)

24: South Wilson

25: Terry’s Corners

26: Upper Mountain

27: Wendelville (3)

28: Wilson

29: Wolcottsville

30: Wright’s Corners (3)

31: Youngstown

32: Fire Coordinator/Staff

33 Hartland

37: Niagara Falls Air Base FD

Car 37C1

Car 37C2

Car 37C3

Rescue 37R5

Engine 37E7

Miscellaneous 37M7A

Foam Truck 37FT10


Orleans County Fire

Orleans County Unit Designations:

Orleans 1:  Emergency Manager/Fire Coordinator

Orleans 2:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/East Battalion

Orleans 3:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/Central

Orleans 4:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/West

Orleans 5:  Fire Investigator/West Battalion

Orleans 6:  Fire Investigator/Central Battalion

Orleans 7:  Fire Investigator/East Battalion

Orleans 8:  Secretary to the Emergency Manager

Orleans County Radio Codes:

10-4:  Acknowledge

10-7:  Out of Service

10-8:  In Service/Responding

10-9:  Repeat

10-50:  Under Control

10-55:  Working Fire

10-97:  On Location

Wyoming County Apparatus Designations:

Car 1:  Chief

1#:  Engine

2#:  Engine

3#:  Engine (Over 1000 gpm)

4#:    Aerial

5#:  Tankers

6#:  Ambulance/Rescue

7#:  Portable Radio

8#:  Utility   

Wyoming County Fire Departments/Battalions:

East Battalion:


-Fancher Hulberton Murray (FHM)


-Holley Ambulance


-Morton (Monroe County)

Central Battalion:


-Barre (2 Stations)

-Carlton (2 Stations) 

West Battalion:

-East Shelby 


-Medina FD (Combination Department)

Car M1/Car M2/Car M3/E-10/E-11/Q-40/A-60/A-61/A-62/A-63/Command 85

-Ridgeway (2 Stations)

-Shelby (2 Stations)

Orleans County Ambulance Services:

Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance (COVA)

-Ambulance 60

-Ambulance 61


Wyoming County Fire Scanning Guide

Wyoming County Unit Designations:

WY-50#:  County Fire Chiefs

WY-51:  Fire Coordinator

WY-52:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/Operations

WY-53:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/Training

WY-54:  Deputy Fire Coordinator/HazMat

Wyoming County Radio Codes:

10-4:  Acknowledge

10-7:  On Location

10-8:  Enroute

10-9:  Repeat

10-10:  Location

Wyoming County Fire/EMS Units:


Engine 3/Tanker 5/Tanker 6/Rescue 7/Engine 10


Station 1-Rescue Engine 1/Tanker 2/RIT 6/Tanker 7/Ambulance 8

Station 2-Tanker 5


Engine 1/Engine 2/Tanker 3/Rescue 7/Ambulance 8/ATV 9


Tanker 1/Engine 2/Engine 3/Rescue 5


Tanker 1/Engine 2/Engine 3/Rescue 7/Ambulance 8

Eagle Hose Company:

Rescue 6


Tanker 2/Engine 5/Rescue 7

Harris Corners:

Engine 6

North Java:

Station 1-Mini 3/Tanker 4/Engine 5/Ambulance 8

Station 2-Engine 6


Rescue Engine 1/Tanker 2/Aerial 3/Tanker 5

Perry Emergency Ambulance:

Perry Center:

Engine 1/Tanker 2/Mini 3/Utility 4


Engine 2/Rescue 6


Engine 1/Engine 2/Tanker 5

Silver Springs:

Engine 1/Tanker 3/Rescue 5


Main Station-Engine 1/Engine 3/Tanker 5/Rescue 7/Ambulance 8

Sub Station-Engine 4


Engine 1/Engine 2/Tanker 3/ATV 4/Ambulance 8


Tanker 1/Tanker 2/Ladder 4/Ambulance 5/Ambulance 6/Transport Bus 8

Rescue 10