How to Monitor radio traffic
Portable Radio Programming

Authorized Media outlets have portable radios programmed to allow monitoring of San Antonio Fire Department radio channels. Tactical radio channels are used to coordinate activities at emergency incidents (i.e., structure fires, grass fires, hazmat incidents, etc.). To track and monitor tactical radio communications:

1. Activate the “scan” feature of the portable radio by pressing the scan button (number 3) (Figure 1). Scanning will enable you to simultaneously monitor radio transmissions on all programmed tactical radio channels. Check the scan indicator (Figure 2) to confirm that the radio is on scan (Figure 3).

2. Listen for radio traffic. Note: Typically, when fire units begin responding to an emergency incident, each unit responding to that incident will transmit a message over the radio notifying Dispatch and other responders that they are responding. A typical transmission would be something like, “Engine 14 responding.”

3. Upon hearing units giving the responding message, look at the display screen (Figure 4) on the front of the radio and make note of the radio channel being used (i.e., 1D; 1E; etc.).

4. Disengage the “scan” feature ((Figure 5) on your radio and turn the channel selector knob ((Figure 6) on the top of the radio until that appropriate tactical channel is displayed on radio’s screen. Begin monitoring the incident.

5. For incident details (i.e., address, number of responding units, incident type, etc.), go to the “Active Incident” page and find the incident that is using that particular radio channel.

Helpful Hints
  • The first arriving unit will give a description of the situation found at the emergency scene. This is called an “initial report.” Listening to the initial report allows you to determine the severity of the incident. For example, the first unit may report “nothing showing” or it may report “heavy fire coming from a three story apartment complex.”
  • Becoming familiar with fire service terminology will help you understand what is happening at the emergency scene.