TOLEDO, Ohio — Many of our WTOL 11 viewers reached out to us Tuesday when they tried to tune in to listen to our area's police and fire departments scanner traffic on Broadcastify and couldn't.
Many assumed scanners were down. They weren't.
First things first. The air around us is filled with radio waves from all kinds of sources and not just radio or TV stations. Police officers, firefighters, EMT personnel, baby monitors and more are transmitting radio waves all around us all the time, according to HowStuffWorks.
A scanner is capable of receiving multiple signals from those radio waves around us, making it possible for us to listen to communication between first responders and dispatch.
Broadcastify is a platform that streams audio from anything related to public safety all around the country. You can connect a radio to a computer and get a live stream on that platform.
The service in our area was down Tuesday because the computer that feeds it froze, according to the person who runs it.
Well, that answers the questions of why many people thought scanners were down and why they couldn't listen to scanner traffic through Broadcastify. What about the many other questions we receive all the time?
Why doesn't WTOL 11 report on scanner traffic?
We listen to scanners at the WTOL 11 newsroom at all times - they are never off - and our assignment desk editor sits right next to them. When we hear reports of a shooting, fire, or a situation that deserves our attention, we will confirm that from other sources before airing it or publishing it online.
The reason is that scanner traffic can be chaotic and unreliable. A lot of the times when dispatchers and first responders are communicating through the radio, they are still trying to figure out what's going on and what they are walking into.
Therefore, the first report of a shooting, for example, may turn out to be nothing. A neighbor could have heard a noise coming from the street or another house and assumed it was a shooting when they called police.
When we put information out there, we strive to be sure. And scanner traffic is just not reliable enough for us to be certain.
How does WTOL 11 confirm information before airing or publishing it?
When our assignment desk editor or anyone else in our team hears a possible situation from the scanners, we will first call the police, fire department, or sheriff's office to check if they know what's happening.
Sometimes, they will confirm the information. Other times, they will say there are crews responding to an incident in a certain area of town but they don't know anything else. There are also instances in which they know nothing at all or will let us know that the scene has been cleared or the incident was trivial.
When the information is confirmed by officials, we report it right away and oftentimes, we will send an alert to your phone. Then, we send crews to the scene to get more information and we'll keep updating our viewers as we learn more.
When officials can only tell us that there are a lot of crews responding to an incident, we won't report on it but we will send our crews to the scene to get more information. Then, once the story is confirmed, we will put it out there.
If I get a tip from scanner traffic, how can I confirm it?
If you like to listen to scanner traffic and happen to hear something that catches your attention, know that information might be unreliable.
If you want to check on it, you can contact your local police or fire departments on their regular, nonemergency lines - DO NOT CALL 911.
If you believe the situation might be big enough that it deserves our attention, you can send us a message on our Facebook page or text us at 419-248-1100 and we will do our best to check and confirm it.
Is information from Facebook pages that report on scanner traffic reliable?
Those posts are just as reliable as scanner traffic. Keep in mind, most of these pages do not confirm the information. Therefore, what you read on these pages might not check out.
Have any other questions about scanners? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll try to get them answered.
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