We, like many preppers have a scanner that we use to listen to transmissions from emergency personnel such as police, fire, and ambulance. If there’s something going on in our neck of the woods, we want to know about it immediately. This is why we choose to listen to a scanner in our home.
For quite some time, we’ve been dealing with “less than ideal” reception issues. Many of the transmissions that we heard were scratchy or garbled. In a lot of cases, we couldn’t pick up certain frequencies at all. This was in part due to the fact that we chose to live in a very rural area which is heavily forested.
Radio waves travel in a straight line and anything that is between the receiving device and the transmitting device can block or interfere with the signal. We were able to hear local emergency personnel talking on our scanner just fine but most other transmissions were too scratchy to understand.
Common sense would tell you that if you have an outdoor antenna, you’ll get better reception when listening to a scanner. Because of the fact that we have so many tall trees surrounding our property, it would be impossible for us to get our antenna to a height that was above the trees.
For this reason, we were reluctant to spend the time and money to install an outdoor antenna. To be quite honest, we just weren’t knowledgeable enough to know whether or not we would actually receive a benefit because of all the tall surrounding trees.
We Finally Decided to Give it a Try
About a month ago, my husband and I started talking about getting our Ham radio licenses. This conversation led to the decision to install an outdoor antenna that could serve both the purpose of improving our scanner and ham radio reception.
We did a lot of research and narrowed down the type of antenna that we wanted to install to a couple of different kinds. The first is called a discone and the second is called a Slim Jim.
Both can be used for the dual purposes of listening to a scanner and sending and receiving ham radio transmissions. I won’t get into the technical details about these antennas but I will tell you that in future articles I’ll be talking about them in much more detail.
For now, we decided to install a discone antenna but we also plan on installing a Slim Jim in the future. Now, remember that I said that we are definitely not experts in radio communications or antennas for that matter. Having said that, we decided that a discone antenna would be the one that would probably best serve our needs for the time being.
It can be used to listen to a very wide range of frequencies on a scanner and it can also be used to transmit and receive ham radio communications. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who have differing opinions but for us this was an antenna that we felt would be best suited for our current needs.
What Were Our Results?
Well, despite our concerns about an outdoor antenna not actually improving our scanner reception, we were quite surprised that it did. As a matter of fact, it made a tremendous difference!
Frequencies that our scanner didn’t pick up at all before now come in quite clearly. Some frequencies are still scratchy and garbled but those are being transmitted from quite some distance away.
Since radio waves travel in what they call “line of sight” (just another way of saying “a straight line”), the ideal situation would be an antenna that is higher than any surrounding trees, buildings, or other obstructions but not all of us have the ability to install that type of an antenna system.
Incidentally, our antenna is only about 5 feet above the pitch of our roof but it’s performing quite well in our particular situation.
A Note about Installation Costs
We already had a mast that the previous owners of our home had used to attach their old-fashioned television antenna to so we didn’t have to buy that. I didn’t keep a detailed log of exactly how much everything cost but I estimate that our total installation costs were around $150. We didn’t buy top-of-the-line equipment because we were really quite convinced that installing the outdoor antenna wouldn’t make that much of a difference.
Even with what many Ham operators would consider to be “entry-level” equipment, we are extremely satisfied with the results. As I mentioned previously, my husband and I are preparing to get our Ham radio licenses. During times of major natural disasters, it’s Ham radio operators who are often instrumental in relaying information.
In a doomsday scenario that lasts for any period of time, cell phone towers will likely be inoperable, land line telephones will most likely go down which means that if you want to have any way of communicating, Ham radios would probably be your best option.
Since we’re on the subject of emergency communications, I suggest you read my article called, Useful Emergency Communications Products For Preppers.