What are scanners?

General scanners are radio receivers 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 Durham Radio and Scanner Master can help! Uniden Bearcat scanners are the most popular.

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 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?  This helps determine whether you need an advanced or basic scanner.

We have scanners that program by location, just enter your Postal 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 Postal 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, R.C.M.P., O.P.P. and Military Police)
  • Fire Departments
  • EMS/Rescue units/Hospital
  • Amateur Radio
  • Road and Water Departments
  • Railroads
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Military
  • Schools and Universities
  • Utilities (Water, Gas, Electric etc.)
  • Malls and stores
  • Stadiums
  • Weather alerts
How do I get started?

That’s where places like Durham Radio, Scanner Master, Radio Reference and sites like this comes in.

First, they will help you get the right scanner.

Secondly, they will help you setup your scanner. Scanners  need to be properly programmed for the area in which they’ll be used and “Postal Code” scanners need to have the database updated from time to time.

To get you going on frequencies for the Province of Ontario, below are Radio Reference links to each county, city or region.

Scanner Frequency Information for Ontario
Algoma District Essex Kawartha Lakes Niagara Peterborough Timiskaming District
Brant Frontenac Kenora District Nipissing District Prescott, Russell, United Toronto
Bruce Grey Lambton Norfolk Prince Edward Waterloo
Carleton Haldimand Lanark Northumberland Rainy River District Wellington
Chatham-Kent Haliburton Leeds and Grenville Ottawa Renfrew York
Cochrane District Halton Lennox and Addington Oxford Simcoe
Dufferin Hamilton Manitoulin District Parry Sound District Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry
Durham Hastings Middlesex Peel Sudbury District
Elgin Huron Muskoka District Perth Thunder Bay District

Information brought to you by RadioReference