I am told there are people out there that actually enjoy listening to all the chatter, annoying tones, static and other horrendous noise that commonly issues forth from your typical police scanner.
As a matter of necessity, journalists like me are forced to listen to these things night and day … nearly about every waking second of our lives. It is the one part of my job I do not at all relish. We are never really off work. At a moment’s notice, I’ve often had to drop what I’m doing and head out to cover something I’ve heard. I’ve abandoned company, had many half-eaten dinners, mowed a fourth of my yard only to have to leave and hope it doesn’t rain before I get back. It’s unnerving.
The noise pollution from a scanner alone is enough to drive you insane after so many endless hours of it. It usually takes me four hours or so, stretched across a few days, to watch an entire two-hour movie because I have to keep pausing to hear some atrocity or other being talked about on the scanner. But as annoying as it is, it is a very valuable tool in gaining information about what is going on in the community. It’s instand open government, right at your fingertips.
But those days may soon come to an end, at least for a while. A threat to our publicly shared nosiness is on the horizon.
The city of Corbin is on the edge of installing a new digital radio system for its emergency departments that, as near as I can tell, cannot be scanned. Other agencies are right behind them. By 2013 or 2014, everyone in emergency services will be on digital systems capable of scrambling radio traffic. I’m sure the technology to crack this system and listen in is forthcoming, but you can bet it won’t be cheap. Portable digital scanners capable of listening to Kentucky State Police frequencies have been out for quite some time, but still require a bit of an investment. I’m sure the new tech will follow suit.
Our desire to listen in is being thwarted by a law enforcement desire not to be listened to. Those two ideas are often in conflict with one another.
Of course there are some very good reasons police, in particular, don’t want everyone to know what they are saying on their radios. Crafty criminals are often listening to their scanners also.
The ability to have uninterrupted radio service with these new digital systems, regardless of terrain that often confounds traditional analog radios, is very alluring as well. It is a constant problem that will be largely solved with the new radio systems.
I have been promised, at least in the case of Corbin, that we will be given the frequencies authorities plan to transmit on once the new digital system is installed. Hopefully, that will happen. Then, at least, once scanner technology catches up with radio technology, we won’t be left with only silence to listen to.
Of course, now that I think about it, maybe that wouldn’t be half bad.
SOME OTHER STUFF
I never know what will strike a chord with readers when I write this column, but my account of the recent lightning strike on Bradyl Street prompted a flood of response.
A selection from the dozens of emails and calls:
• City Utilities General Manager Ron Herd informed me that the utility offers “meter socket (whole house) surge protectors” complete with a warranty that will pay for repair or replacement of appliances if they are damaged. Check with CUC if you are interested.
• Reader David Thornhill said some insurance companies will pay for damage caused by lightning without payment of a deductible. Not sure if this is true, but you may want to check if you ever have lightning damage.
• Last, I received a call from a local man who filled me in on how the street I live on, Bradyl Street, got its name. He said a former Public Works Director was tasked with coming up with names for a bunch of streets the city had just annexed. He decided to name this one his daughter, Lynn Bradyl. Beautiful name for a beautiful street. Great place to live. Just watch out for lightning.