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DO's & DON'TS of Radio Scanners 

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With the recent incidents that have been heard over the scanner in regards to what social media has reported and what actual final outcome really was. A few of our followers have asked us on how we report situations we hear on the scanners. Here are a few tips that our founder and administrator of Hawaii Island Radio Scanner Community Ben have provided based on those inquiries.


DO: Keep in mind information is preliminary and does require verification.


In many situations, we jump up to the conclusion that it’s going to be a huge event based on the initial dispatch. Come to find out in the end, it’s was nothing more than just simply a call for help and not the initially reported details. In many scenarios or incidents, verification by our many sources and through the lead agency helps usually put together the full story and determine what is worth posting an update on or adding it our scanner log.


Ben reports in the many years he has been a scanner enthusiast, he’s heard many emergencies that you would think would be major, but ended up being something a lot different than first reported. In an example, Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) units get dispatched to report of 2 surfers in distress, they arrive on the scene of the incident and turns out to be nothing at all, just surfers waiting for the right wave. Another example, HFD and Hawaii Police Department (HPD) get a call for report a of a car went over the edge of the road, they arrive on the scene and discover it’s just an abandoned vehicle thrown into the gulch.


There have been cases where someone reported hearing something on the scanner and posting on social media. And later, come to find out it was something entirely different, creating a lot of headaches and sometimes backlash in the end. Ben says that taking the time to just verifying the information first before posting it can save that headache down the road. A lot of lessons are learned from those mistakes and are sometimes hard to come back to from it in the end.


If you need help getting scanner information verified, you’re welcome to message via our Facebook page or email, and we will reach out to our contacts we know to get it verified.


DON’T: Head out to the scene or encourage others to do so


Now, this may sound a little contrary to what that is implying, some of our team members, do head out toward to the scenes to help gather information for us to forward on to you (the general public). Members on our team, who have undergone media safety training with many public safety agencies and are former first responders themselves are very familiar many situational hazards of being on scene of many types of incidents and also have necessary protective equipment as well, we highly do advise members of the public to stay from the scene of major developing incidents. Some first responders do feel uneasy about many bystanders or crowds gathered around developing incidents or crime scenes. 


There were some cases, where members of the public were crowded around a scene or coming to check it out for themselves, caused delays for actual first responders heading scene, which in many situations time is of the essence. Another example, people rubbernecking at a major traffic accident and wanting to get the photo into the news had proved to be the real delay, in the end, preventing first responders arriving on the scene in a timely manner. In scenarios where we see that incident are just too dangerous for anyone to be around, we rely on phone calls to the primary agencies public information officer during that situation to help provide information that is available for us to post an update on. Some times heading to the scene can put yourself potentially in a more dangerous situation than it sounds.


Don’t: Post the movement or exact locations of First Responders during a sensitive situation or incident.


There have situations in the past (a few in the mainland) where that simple post or picture has put our first responders at risk. For example, another scanner enthusiast posted on Facebook on the location of police at residence and where they were coming from based on what was heard on the scanner, later come to realize, it was actually an undercover operation/search warrant being executed. Its situations like that can comprise the officer's safety during that event and potentially aide the suspects.


What Ben learned over the years, is to post only general information (the general type of incident happening) & location (like city or town name only) and not exact locations during police sensitive situations. “I have told our team when incidents like that come up, be mindful of what kind of situation is happening and get to the true general facts before making that post. I have also told my team, put yourself in the shoes of the first responders at the scene and see how that can cause problems for them down the road.”


DO: Be very sensitive to the potential victims of all incidents


This DO can be filed under the law of common sense for all scanner users & listeners. We tend to get caught in the excitement of hearing a fatal incident, but do not think about the victim’s family in the end. While many will say, social media and other sources are a way for families to be aware of the incident in general, law enforcement agencies have standard procedures & protocols to wait to identify a victim until the family has been officially notified (where the term of pending positive identification by next of kin has been made). All law enforcement agencies are very sensitive to this issue, as well. In many cases, victim’s families prefer to hear it from an official source (like law enforcement or medical examiner agencies) first before hearing about it or seeing out on social media.

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