What am I listening to?
The scanner is programmed to receive a variety of dispatch and operations channels for fire and police agencies in Multnomah County. All of these agencies are dispatched by the Bureau of Emergency Communications. BOEC handles dispatching duties for the Portland Police Bureau, Gresham Police, Portland Fire and Rescue and several other smaller emergency agencies in the county.
Which channel you hear depends on whether someone is talking when the scanner checks that frequency.
This is the same feed the assignment editors in the KATU newsroom listen to. During breaking news events we might lock onto a channel to focus on a single event.
I'm not hearing anything. Why?
Short periods of silence are normal, as there are moments where no one is transmitting or when the scanner is searching through the list of frequencies.
What are all the codes I'm hearing?
Figuring out all of the agency jargon can take some getting used to and varies by jurisdiction. The assignment editors at KATU News are skilled at listening for certain codes that might indicate a newsworthy event is happening. For instance, the code “55” means there is some kind of death. We also perk up when we hear “12-34,” which is code for a mentally unstable person.
You may also hear the terms “code 1,” code 2” or “code 2.” Code 1 is a low priority call, while code 3 is a high priority call that requires lights and sirens for responding officers or firefighters.
During incidents requiring firefighters, you might hear a series of electronic tones before the call. Those tones are used to dispatch different fire units.
If you have a specific question please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We won't always know what was going on in specific incidents you may hear, but we'll do our best to help with some of the jargon.
The more you listen the more you'll start to understand much of the terminology.
What about other counties?
Washington and Clackamas Counties share some emergency dispatching functions and offer and online map of active calls. You can also access an online stream of Washington County fire and EMS calls.
The website RadioReference.com offers feeds of many emergency dispatch scanners. Check out their site to find your local agency.