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TUCoPS :: Radio :: findfreq.txt

How to Find Scanner Frequencies

 last changed March 27, 1995                                  |

 Lines changed since the previous issue are marked with a  |
 character in the right margin.


                    by Bob Parnass, AJ9S

  [NOTE: This article may not be reproduced in whole  or  in
 part   on   CDROMS,   in   bulletin  boards,  networks,  or
 publications which charge for service without permission of
 the author.  Free distribution is encouraged.]

 I am often asked, "How  do  you  find  these  frequencies?"
 Scanner  enthusiasts  can obtain frequency information from
 several sources,  including  books,  government  microfiche
 records, or other listeners.


 The most convenient source of fire and  police  frequencies
 is  the  Police  Call Radio Guide, published each year in 9
 regional volumes by Hollins Radio Data, and sold  at  Radio
 Shack and larger book stores for under $10.  Police Call is
 basically a computer printout of FCC license information in
 the   fire,  police,  local  government,  and  conservation
 services in two lists: by licensee name within  state,  and
 by  frequency.  Later editions have included a few pages of
 local   airport   and   nonsensitive   federal   government

 I highly recommend Richard  Barnett's  1992  book,  Monitor
 America,  published  by Scanner Master Corp.  A 3rd edition  |
 is  expected  soon  and  will  be  available   from   Grove  |
 Enterprises  for about $30.  This second edition is crammed
 full of police, fire, local government, news media, sports,
 national park, and commercial broadcast frequencies for all
 50  states.   The  information  was  compiled  mainly  from
 members  of  the  world's  largest scanning club, the Radio
 Communications  Monitoring  Association  (RCMA).    Monitor
 America  contains  detailed  communications system profiles
 and precinct maps for major metropolitan areas.  Police and
 fire  radio  codes  and  unit  identifiers  unique to local
 agencies are listed for several cities.  This differs  from
 Police  Call,  which  gives  a  more  sterile,  but uniform
 treatment of licensees, listing even the smallest of towns.
 A 3rd edition is expected in early 1995.

 Scanner Master also publishes regional frequency guides for
 Illinois, Florida, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and
 other states.

 Beyond  Police  Call,  available   from   several   sources
 including  Radio  Shack,  covers the business, schools, and
 other stations not  covered  by  Police  Call,  its  sister
 publication.  One volume covers the entire USA, but no call
 signs are shown.

 Aeronautical frequencies are covered  in  the  Aeronautical
 Frequency   Directory,   written   by  Bob  Coburn,  W1JJO.
 Although  most  of  the  information  is   about   civilian
 aviation,   Bob   included  sections  on  military  mid-air
 refueling and CAP.  The second edition is about  400  pages
 and  is  available  from  Official Scanner Guide.  The same
 publisher  sells  the  Maritime  Frequency  Directory   and
 frequency  guides  for several New England states.  Some of
 these books are available through Radio Shack, too.

 The  most  readily  available  source   of   sensitive   US
 government  frequencies  is  still Tom Kneitel's Top Secret
 Registry of US Government Radio Frequencies.  Published  by
 CRB  Research,  the  8th  edition  is  available from Grove
 Enterprises  for  about  $22.   Kneitel's   book   contains
 frequency listings for NASA, military, FBI, Secret Service,
 DEA,  IRS,  Border  Patrol,  arsenals,  ammunition  plants,
 missile  sites,  and  others  in  the  25 to 470 MHz range.
 Since  the  US  government  no  longer   offers   frequency
 information  for  its own stations, and has never published
 sensitive frequencies, most of the information in Kneitel's
 book  has been collected from listeners over the years.  It
 is certainly not complete, nor 100% accurate, but is a good
 book for this difficult to obtain information.


 Although   national   in   circulation,   local   frequency
 information  is  sometimes  available in Grove's Monitoring
 Times    and     Kneitel's     sensationalistic     Popular

                     Government Records

 Every  year,  the   US   Government   sells   FCC   license
 information,  in  the  form of microfiche, floppy disk, and
 magnetic tape, to the public through the US  Department  of
 Commerce National Technical Information Service (NTIS).

 These lists contain license information for the  industrial
 (e.g.   Illinois  Armored  Car, Pinkerton's Security, Joe's
 Towing, etc.), highway maintenance,  commercial  broadcast,
 aviation, common carrier, and maritime services, as well as
 for police and fire.  For more info call NTIS  at  703-487-

 Microfiche is not for the casual hobbyist, but  rather  for
 the  ardent  listener,  who  can easily spend a few hundred
 dollars for  the  fiche,  not  including  the  price  of  a
 microfiche reader.

 Back in "the good old days," Grove Enterprises sold  copies
 of  some  FCC  microfiche  files, and this was much cheaper
 than buying directly from  NTIS.   Grove  no  longer  sells
 microfiche,   but  sells  information  on  CDROM  for  $100
 instead.  The fields are similar to PerCon's Spectrum CDROM
 (see  below), but the transmitter and licensee location are
 intermixed which makes query results confusing.  The  first
 release   has  problems  with  mistakes  in  the  data  and
 documentation, and I look  forward  to  a  new  release  to
 correct these shortcomings.

 The FCC has an agreement with PerCon (tel. 716-386-6015), a
 private  company,  to  sell  FCC license information to the
 public on both floppy disks and CDROMs.  You  can  buy  the
 full license information for a multi state region or a less
 detailed license database covering the the  entire  USA  on
 CDROM  for about $100.  The new PerCon Spectrum CDROM sells
 for $29 and contains a handful  of  fields  for  every  FCC
 license in the US.  It works well.

 Companies have appeared which are "plugged  into"  the  FCC
 licensing  system  and they sell computer time allowing on-
 line file access.  They  also  sell  paper  copies  of  FCC
 information.   Washington  Radio Reports is one example.  A
 monthly publication, it lists license applications made  to
 the  FCC.   A  few members of my scanner club subscribe and
 share the information with me.

 Over 15% of the FCC  licenses,  including  many  fast  food
 restaurants, contain transmitter latitude and longitude but
 specify no transmitter city.  To determine the location  of
 those   transmitters   requires   using  the  latitude  and
 longitude information.

 As I have already done for dozens of radio enthusiasts  and  |
 companies  across  the  country, I will locate FCC licensed  |
 and selected FAA transmitter  sites  in  an  area  of  your
 choice,  and  produce  a custom report.  To make it easy to
 locate transmitters, the report includes an 8-1/2"  by  11"  |
 scaled  color  map marked with transmitter sites and cities
 (no streets).  I call this innovation RadioMap(TM) service.

 It allows you to identify antenna sites  (including  paging
 and   cellular   phone   cell   sites)  and  visualize  the
 transmitter  locations  in  your  neighborhood,  near  your
 office, at an airport, and other places of interest -- from
 VLF through microwave.  Industry uses RadioMap  reports  to
 survey  the  "radio  environment"  prior to installation of
 radios and wireless microphones at customer sites.

 This is completely different from, and independent  of  the
 Grove Enterprises CDROM.

 Ham radio stations are not  listed.   The  RadioMap  report
 includes frequencies, callsigns, and licensee names.  For a
 flat fee, you choose the center location, and I choose  the
 range,  depending  on  transmitter  site density.  A 5 mile
 range (100 sq. mi. area) works well in most suburban areas.
 In  rural  areas, ranges of up to 10 or more miles (400 sq.
 mi. area) are possible,  while  ranges  of  1  to  2  miles
 produce  best  results in urban cities, e.g., Manhattan and
 downtown Chicago.

 I will produce custom RadioMap reports for areas in any  of
 the 50 states.  Send $25.95 (check or money order) for each  |
 RadioMap report, your name, address, and telephone  number,
 along  with  center  location  (nearest  intersection  of 2
 streets, or latitude & longitude)  to:  Bob  Parnass,  2350
 Douglas  Road, Oswego, IL 60543.  tel. 708-554-3839 6-10 PM
 central time.                                                *

        Federal Radio Stations - Not Licensed by FCC

 Since federal government radio stations are not licensed by
 the FCC, they are not listed in FCC microfiche.  In 1981, a
 group of 60 radio hobbyists split a $1300 fee, and obtained
 80   microfiche  cards  of  'sanitized'  information  about
 federal government radio  stations  under  the  Freedom  of
 Information Act (FOIA)1.  Only 12  of  the  21  information
 fields  for  each  station  were  furnished.   Fields  like
 "Remarks", which indicate the  exact  usage  of  a  channel
 (e.g.   "Sky  Marshall's  Net"),  and  "Bureau", indicating
 agency  subdivision  (e.g.   TAC  within  the  USAF),  were
 withheld.   These 80 pages of microfiche were sold by Grove
 Enterprises for $25, but are no longer available from  that
 source.   Private entrepreneurs have been known to ask $125
 or more for a set!  In a step backward, the  US  Government
 insists  it will no longer release this type of information
 - it is now 'classified'2.

 For  a  reason  unknown  to  this  author,  the  government
 released a 1984 vintage set of frequencies allocated to the
 FAA.  Perhaps this was a mistake, because  the  information
 is  marked  'unclassified',  but  all fields are furnished,
 including  some  which  indicate  security  related  usage.
 Grove sold this set of 33 microfiche cards for about $13.

 Two way radio equipment formerly used by the  armed  forces
 often  appears  for  sale  at hamfests.  Less often, Secret
 Service and FBI radios appear there from time to time, too.
 When  you  see  such  equipment,  look over the radio for a
 frequency label and write down the frequencies  stamped  on
 the crystals or channel elements.  Make note of any service
 or property tags which specify the agency or military  base
 which used the equipment.

                         Radio Clubs

 One of the best parts of the hobby is sharing it with other
 radio  buffs.   Trading  information  with  other hobbyists
 about frequencies,  communication  systems,  and  receiving
 equipment is more valuable than a pile of magazines.

 Since  the  early  1960s,  I  had  been  an  amateur  radio
 operator,  and belonged to amateur radio clubs, but I never
 realized there were any scanner clubs!  In 1983,  I  joined
 the  world's largest scanner club, the Radio Communications
 Monitoring Association (RCMA).

 Founded in 1975,  the  RCMA  is  the  "first  national  and
 international  organization  of  monitor  radio listeners."
 There are several  regional  chapters  which  hold  regular
 meetings.  Club dues are collected annually, which covers a
 monthly newsletter, the  RCMA  Scanner  Journal,  about  95
 pages  long.   Although the focus is on VHF and UHF ranges,
 there is coverage of HF utility stations below 30  MHz.   A
 recent  liberalization  of  club  policy  now  permits  the
 printing of most federal law enforcement frequencies, e.g.,
 Secret Service, FBI, Customs, and DEA.

 Inquiries about RCMA membership should be sent to:

                    RCMA General Manager
                    P.O. Box 542
                    Silverado, CA 92676

 Another club which prints sensitive federal frequencies  is
 the   All   Ohio  Scanner  Club.   I  enjoy  its  bimonthly
 publication, The American Scannergram, which  is  about  60
 pages  long.   Although  concentrating  on  Ohio,  there is
 frequency information from  other  states,  and  plenty  of
 product reviews and scanning tips.

 More information is available from:

                   All Ohio Scanner Club
                   50 Villa Road
                   Springfield, OH 45503

                    Do Your Own Sleuthing

 The  real  challenge  is  deriving   new   spectrum   usage
 information.    Sometimes   it  requires  several  days  of
 listening, taping, and compiling fragments of  information.
 Other  times,  the  frequency  information is there for the
 taking - without hassle.

 More about sleuthing will be discussed in Part II  of  this

                      Part 2: Sleuthing

                    by Bob Parnass, AJ9S

 Part I of this series discussed how scanner enthusiasts can
 obtain   frequency   information   from  books,  government
 microfiche records, or other listeners.   This  installment
 discusses digging up new frequencies on your own.

                    Do Your Own Sleuthing

 There  is  a  challenge  in  deriving  new  spectrum  usage
 information  on  your  own.   Sometimes it requires several
 days of  listening,  taping,  and  compiling  fragments  of
 information.   Other  times,  the  frequency information is
 there for the taking - without hassle.

 You can approach from two directions:

   1.  Listen first: Monitor a frequency or frequencies, and
       determine  who's  transmitting  and  what purpose the
       channel serves.  Once you identify the user, log  the

   2.  Compile first: Take advantage of opportunities,  such
       as  examining the frequency label on a guard's radio,
       or reading the FCC  license  hanging  on  the  "radio
       room"  wall, to compile frequency lists, then monitor
       the listed  frequencies  to  confirm  that  they  are
       really  in  use.   Readers  are urged to abide by the
       rules of good taste and local laws in the  quest  for
       frequency  information.   Don't trespass, wait for an

 Most listeners use a combination of both approaches.

        What Makes Station Identification Difficult?

 In  most  instances,  FCC  rules  require  radio  users  to
 identify  their  operations with FCC assigned call letters.
 Police and fire departments, especially those with  trained
 radio  dispatchers,  seem  particularly conscientious about
 station identification.  Like commercial broadcasters, many
 of these stations identify on the hour and the half hour.

 Some  repeater  stations  have  Morse  code  identification
 circuits  which  transmit call letters on a periodic basis,
 insuring compliance with FCC rules.

 On the other hand, over 75% the industrial  radio  stations
 monitored  within  the last year ignore the FCC regulation,
 making it difficult for a listener to identify  a  station.
 Some   stations   may   operate   for   years   using   the
 nondescriptive  "base  to  mobile  2"  or  "Joe  to   base"
 protocol.   One  rung  up  the  hierarchy are stations that
 identify using something like "Acme base  to  107",  giving
 the  listener  a  clue  for  his  log.  If call letters are
 given, they are often rendered unintelligible by  operators
 who  fail  to  enunciate.   The failure to identify is more
 likely due to sloppiness, rather than any attempt  to  hide
 station identity.

 While not regulated by the FCC,  federal  government  radio
 stations  vary  in  the extent to which they identify their
 transmissions.  Some federal  stations  do  not  have  call
 letters.    A   nearby   paging   transmitter  periodically
 transmits a voice recording announcing, "This is  the  Army
 Joliet  Ammunition  Plant."  What more could a listener ask

 Aside from a scanner and antenna, the most useful piece  of
 equipment  for sleuthing is a voice actuated (VOX) cassette
 tape recorder.  You don't need a  high  fidelity  model  or
 anything  fancy.   I  use  two  modified Radio Shack CTR-75
 recorders, a discontinued model.

 VOX recorders allow one to compress a whole day's worth  of
 monitoring  onto  a  single tape.  I often leave a recorder
 "armed" and connected to a scanner at home while  I  am  at
 the  office or doing something else.  When call letters are
 mumbled, I can play and replay the tape until  I  hear  and
 understand them.

 The following examples illustrate techniques I've  used  to
 derive new frequency information.

             Examine the FCC License on Premise

 I have found the actual FCC radio  license,  complete  with
 frequency  assignments, hanging on the walls of places like
 the Bell Labs security office and the guard shack at  Waste
 Management's Greene Valley Landfill in Naperville.

            Examine the Labels on Radio Equipment

 Frequency information is engraved on labels on the back  of
 many  walkie-talkies,  or  inside  the battery compartment,
 like in the Motorola HT220 model.  Most pagers have  labels
 on  the  bottom  or  inside.   Like  passwords  taped  onto
 terminals, it's not uncommon to find Dymo or  P-Touch  tape
 labels  embossed  with frequencies or call letters glued to
 the front of base stations.

 You  can  make  your  own  opportunities  for  eyeing   the
 equipment  or  take  advantage  of "open house" events.  If
 information is displayed publicly, then a reasonable person
 could assume it's not government secret.

    - At the annual Glenview Naval Air Station open house, I
      examined  a  military  manpack  radio  being  used  by
      dispensary paramedics.  The radio's  tuning  dial  was
      set at 34.15 MHz.

    - The Illinois Army National Guard displayed two armored
      personnel  carriers  at  the  local  county fair, each
      equipped with VHF-FM and HF-SSB transceivers.

      In addition to a  tuning  control  (VFO),  the  VHF-FM
      radio  had  a  set of channel select pushbuttons, much
      like those in a car radio. I asked a guardsman  a  few
      questions  about  the  radio,  and he demonstrated the
      channel preset feature.  A  panel  above  the  channel
      pushbuttons  was labeled with the frequencies: 32.055,
      34.45, 35.35, 40.55, and 40.60 MHz.

    - An Army National Guard UH1 helicopter was displayed at
      the  Marseilles  armory  "open house".  The public was
      permitted   to   climb   aboard,   and   observe   the
      instrumentation  and  radio  gear.  A channel plate on
      the   instrument   cluster   listed   over   a   dozen

 Hobbyists are urged to exercise a modicum of restraint  and
 good judgement.  In New Jersey, a radio technician/hobbyist
 called to service  a  transmitter  in  a  county  building,
 noticed  a new unattended repeater installation in the same
 room.  Being curious about what frequency this repeater was
 on,  he opened the access door to copy the frequencies from
 the  radio's  crystals.   It  turns  out  that  this  radio
 belonged  to  the US Secret Service, and opening the access
 door could have activated a "tamper alarm"!

 The  tech  was  skating  on  thin  ice.   He  had  nobody's
 permission to tamper with that equipment.

 Another source of frequency information is as close as your
 nearest  Radio Shack store.  Some Radio Shack stores make a
 local frequency list  available  to  assist  their  scanner
 customers.   Be  sure  to  ask.  Stores located in shopping
 malls almost always know the mall security frequencies.   I
 often check the frequencies programmed into the floor model
 scanners, too.

           Equipment to Determine Frequency Usage

 If you don't know the exact frequency, but have  a  general
 idea  of the range (e.g. 150 - 152 MHz), use your scanner's
 "search"  mode.   Most  programmable  scanners  afford  the
 ability  to  search between two frequency limits set by the
 user.  Some models, including  the  Radio  Shack  PRO-2035,
 ICOM  R7000/R7100,  Bearcat  2500XLT, and Bearcat 250, have
 the ability to automatically store active frequencies found
 during an unattended search operation.

 To find the frequency of a hotel communications system, one
 fellow  installed  his Bearcat 250 in his car and parked in
 the hotel lot, leaving  the  scanner  in  the  "search  and
 store"  mode.   He  left  the  antenna  disconnected so the
 scanner  would  only  respond  to  a  transmitter  in   the
 immediate vicinity.

 Test equipment can aid  in  the  quest  for  new  frequency
 information.  I've used a spectrum analyzer connected to an
 outside antenna, and a frequency counter for close-in work.

               How Can I Determine To Whom I'm
                   Listening? - An Example

 While scanning the industrial frequencies in  the  150  MHz
 range, a van driver was overheard communicating with "base"
 while driving around my town.  The stations involved  never
 used  FCC  call  signs  --  this would have made life a lot
 easier for me, and legal for them! (one may use FCC license
 microfiche,  described  in  Part  I  of  this  article,  to
 identify stations using call letters.)  Transmissions  were
 short  and infrequent, so it was decided to tape record all
 transmissions  on  this  frequency  for  several  days   to
 determine the station's identity.

 During daylight hours, a modified Regency K500 scanner  was
 left  tuned  to  the target frequency, connected to a cheap
 tape recorder through a  home  built  interface.   Using  a
 carrier  operated  relay, the tape interface supplied power
 to the recorder only during radio transmissions, so a day's
 worth of traffic could be compressed into a 45 minute tape.

 Each day, the tape was played  back  and  notes  on  names,
 locations,   and  activities  mentioned  during  the  day's
 transmissions were taken.  The van driver  appeared  to  be
 making  daily stops at a local bank and two shopping malls.
 A Walgreen's store seemed to be the only stop at one  mall.
 A  few  times, "base" ordered the van "back to the Training
 Center."   There  were  frequent  references   to   "guests
 checking  out",  "dropping a guest off", and "instructor[s]
 missing a class".  At times, "base" spoke with  "security",
 who  must  have  been  using a walkie-talkie as his signals
 weren't strong enough to hear.

 Was this a hotel?  Calls to the three local hotels revealed
 that  none  provides  shuttle  bus  service to the shopping
 malls.  A call  to  the  Walgreen's,  inquiring  about  bus
 service  to  the  store,  drew  another  blank.   During my
 shopping trips, I began to pay  closer  attention  to  vans
 with antennas driving through the parking lots.

 I was leaving the mall one day, when a week's  effort  paid
 off.   A  maroon  and  white  van,  equipped  with a VHF-Hi
 antenna, was dropping shoppers off at Walgreen's.   A  sign
 on the van's door read:

 XYZ Central Training Center (XYZ is  a  pseudonym  for  the
 actual licensee name.)
                       Lisle, Illinois

 I watched the driver pick up a microphone, and listened  to
 him on my portable scanner checking back with his "base".

 All the  pieces  fit:  the  "guests",  the  "classes",  the
 "instructors".   Mystery  solved; I had been monitoring the
 customer training center for a large computer manufacturer.
 The  training  center has hotel rooms and dining facilities
 to  accommodate  students  from  out  of   state.    As   a
 convenience,  shuttle  van  service  is  provided  to local
 shopping malls.


 Through books, government records, and radio clubs, scanner
 listeners can make use of frequency information compiled by
 others.  Two-way radio users often fail to  identify  their
 transmissions   properly,  making  it  more  difficult  for
 listeners to know who they are  monitoring.   By  examining
 radio   equipment   labeling,  and  monitoring  and  taping
 transmissions,  scanner   enthusiasts   can   unearth   new


                Grove Enterprises,
                PO Box 98,
                140 Dog Branch Road,
                Brasstown, NC 28902.
                tel (704)837-9200
                order line (800)438-8155

                Official Scanner Guide,
                PO Box 712,
                Londonderry, NH 03053.

                Scan America,
                430 Garner Drive,
                Suffield, OH 44260-1557

                Scanner Master,
                PO Box 428,
                Newton Highlands, MA 02161.
                telephone 1-800-722-6701.


 1. See "The Government Giveth, the Government Taketh Away",
    by Richard Prelinger, in Monitoring Times, July 1982.

 2. See "AFIO and the FOIA", by Bob Grove, in Monitoring
    Times, September 1982.

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