This article first appeared in the July 2001 issue of Monitoring Times.
Summertime usually means vacations, and that means taking your scanner on the road. Planes, trains, and automobiles can get you where you want to go, but being able to monitor can make for a more enjoyable and often safer trip.
Preparation is the key. First, map out the areas you'll be traveling to, and any interesting areas along the way. Then locate frequencies for those areas.
The traditional method for finding frequencies is to use a publication such as Police Call. My 2001 Edition is well used, and I'd recommend bringing a copy of the proper volume along on your trip. It doesn't need batteries and there's room to make notes or update listings. Also, if the fish aren't biting or you're stuck in your tent during a rain storm you can pass the time by reading the Listener's Guide in the front section of the publication, which provides an excellent introduction to radio monitoring in general and scanning in particular. There's also a separate section on trunked radio systems.
The computer age has brought us an alternative way to locate specific frequency and talkgroup information, and that is via the World Wide Web. A number of websites cater to the trunked radio listener, and I'll list a few of the more popular ones here:
www.trunkedradio.net, operated by Lindsay Blanton, offers extensive frequency and talkgroup lists sorted by state. The site also provides news, equipment information, and computer software related to trunked system monitoring. It's very good, very detailed, and very well maintained.
www.bearcat1.com/fleet.htm, run by the Bearcat Radio Club, provides listings of frequencies and talkgroups for the United States and many foreign countries.
www.trunktracker.comby Trunking Technologies, LLC, also lists frequencies and talkgroups.
home.att.net/~wwhitby/, run by Warren Whitby, contains frequencies and talkgroups, although they don't appear to have been updated for quite some time.
I would also recommend using a search engine such as www.google.com, which may help to locate frequencies not easily found elsewhere. Using keywords like "trunked" and "talkgroup" along with the city or county of interest will often turn up a wealth of information.
Besides state and county police, don't forget about federal agencies. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service are two organizations that may be involved in survey, protection, and even rescue operations during the summer. Warm dry weather often means forest fires out west, and frequencies used by the U.S. Forest Service are often busy with firefighting traffic.
Fish and Wildlife Service may be found at 34.8100 and 34.8300 MHz, as well as 408.6750, 408.7500, and 410.6250 MHz.
www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/9952/nps.htmhas listings by state of National Park Service operations.
web.csuchico.edu/~cw38/freq/agriculture.htmllists U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service frequencies related to aerial firefighting in Northern California.
If your scanner doesn't already have it built in, you may want to add the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather frequencies. NOAA operates more than 500 radio stations across the country, broadcasting weather forecasts and alerts 24 hours a day. The seven nationwide frequencies are 162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, and 162.550 MHz.
I'd be interested in hearing about other frequencies, whether trunked or conventional, that you're using during your summer road trips.
Project 25 Scanner in the works
At the end of April, Uniden America announced they are expecting to manufacture a scanner capable of decoding trunked Project 25 radio signals within a year or so. Their primary customer focus for this new scanner appears to be news gathering organizations, who are increasingly shut out from police and fire radio transmissions due to the digital nature of Project 25 and the current lack of consumer digital receivers.
Also, at the Dayton Hamvention in May, the ScannerMaster booth had a sign reading
Scanner/Receiver Drop-in Board
Available in 2001 Offers low-cost solution for receive-only Also provides all-band analog trunked/conventional reception
This Drop-in Board is apparently the long-rumored addition to the Uniden Bearcat 780XLT scanner and is being developed by Greg Knox and Rich Barnett.
Uniden expects that public safety agencies may move to encrypted communications once Project 25 scanners become widely available, in order to maintain the relative privacy from scanner listeners they now enjoy. Encrypted signals would be illegal to monitor under federal law, but Uniden speculates that news organizations may petition to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make an exception for public safety systems paid for by public tax dollars.
In addition, even though Motorola, the primary manufacturer for Project 25 equipment, would be happy to sell encryption devices to public safety agencies, it's not clear that counties and municipalities will be willing to spend additional dollars in the face of public opposition. Only time will tell.
Fleet Map Programming
David, don't feel bad. Fleet Maps can be rather confusing at times, but you are indeed on the right track.
Jefferson County, Arkansas, and the city of Pine Bluff use a Motorola Type I analog system. I have conflicting frequency information: one source shows 856.2375, 856.9625, 857.2375, 857.9625, 858.2375, 858.9625, 859.2375, 859.9625, 860.2375, and 860.9625 MHz in use, the other reports only 856.4625, 857.4625, 858.4625, 859.4625, and 860.4625 MHz. Perhaps David or another Arkansas monitor can clarify the situation.
In any case, the Fleet Map information of B0 = S13, B4 = S12, and B6 = S12 breaks down like this. Recall that there are eight blocks in a Type I system. Each block has an associated size code, which can range anywhere from S-1 to S-14. Most size codes fit in a single block, except for S-12, S-13, and S-14. S-12 fits in two blocks, S-13 fits in four blocks, and S-14 fits in eight blocks.
For the Jefferson County system, then, all eight blocks are taken up by the three size codes. Blocks 0, 1, 2, and 3 contain size code S-13, blocks 4 and 5 hold S-12 and blocks 6 and 7 hold a second S-12. A size code of S-12 allows for up to 16 subfleets and 1024 individual unit identifiers. S-13 also supports 16 subfleets but can have as many as 2048 individual identifiers.
More information about Fleet Maps can be found in my August 2000, Tracking the Trunks column.
Instructions for programming fleet maps into the BC 245XLT begin on page 56 of the Owner's Manual. None of the sixteen predefined fleet maps match the Jefferson County system, so you'll need to create a "User Defined" fleet map. To do this on the BC 245XLT perform the following steps:
Arkansas State Police (Troop E)
Tactical #1 000-5
Tactical #2 000-6
Car to car 000-15
Also, the Arkansas Department of Transportation uses talkgroup 400-12, and the State Police may use talkgroup 400-09 as a link to the local Sheriff.Illinois STARCOM 21 Update
From a source that would rather remain anonymous comes this information about the new STARCOM 21 system for the state of Illinois:
Dan, please don't use my name or email address but I know a good bit about the Illinois STARCOM 21 project.
That's all for this month. I welcome your electronic mail at email@example.com, and you can find more information and previous columns on my website at www.signalharbor.com. Until next time, happy monitoring and safe travels.
Click here for the index page.
Click here for the main page.