For decades, people have entertained themselves by listening to police, fire, and rescue radio scanners. Part of the appeal is being able to listen to various emergency dispatch calls that go out. All of this is happening in real time, no depending on the local news to report to you hours later. It used to be you needed to buy your own scanner if you wanted partake in this hobby. Like with so many other things, the Internet has made things much easier and more accessible.

The radio scanning community for the province of British Columbia now shares its scanners with the rest of world via the Internet. Their web site, ScanBC, provides streamed access to the various radio systems used by the province’s emergency responders. The most interesting ones include E-Comm Vancouver, E-Comm Surrey, and Skytrain. The first two cover fire and rescue for western and eastern part of the Lower Mainland. The Skytrain scanner lets you listen in on the system that Skytrain attendants use to communicate with main control. What’s noticeably missing are scanners for the police. It’s my understanding that police communications in the Lower Mainland cannot be monitored with scanners that are available to the public. This is quite understandable as I imagine being able to listen in on police radio chatter puts law enforcement at a disadvantaged position.

Nonetheless, the existing services available are quite entertaining to listen to, especially on the weekends. On Saturday night, I was able to hear some quite interesting things. On the Skytrain scanner, I got to hear the chatter while Skytrain attendants prepared to shut down the rapid transit line for the night. One attendant warned control that a particular inbound car contained a “hot lunch”. I am pretty sure that did not mean that a passenger had forgotten their food on one of the trains. The E-Comm Vancouver scanner was especially lively. Given it was the weekend and that scanner includes fire/rescue for downtown Vancouver, it was an interesting night. Most of the calls came from the downtown area. I heard requests for assistance involving “hemorrhaging”, “chest pains”, “fire alarm activation”, and “fall”.

The most interesting call happened about 3am as I was thinking about going to bed. There was a “structural fire” in Vancouver involving a house. The firefighters that came on scene reported to dispatch that they couldn’t even get in through the door. Apparently, there was a massive amount of debris blocking the entrance and they were requesting a chainsaw. Then the firefighters reported that there was an assumption that someone was still inside the house. The fire became a tw0-alarm fire and more personnel were brought on scene. It was then reported the house was a hoarder’s house and that’s why they were having so much trouble getting inside the house. They finally were able to get a few dudes inside to confirm if the house was empty. Keep in mind, the fire wasn’t even out at this point. Someone then decided it was getting too risky as the fire was still raging, the house was filled with junk, and they were concerned the house was not structurally safe anymore. What few firefighters had managed to get inside were pulled back out and accounted for. It was at this point I went to bed.

When I woke up the next morning, the fire had made the local news. As of this time, they still hadn’t confirmed if the house was devoid of people at the time of the fire. If you’re ever bored, check out the ScanBC web site. They also have a Twitter account which distills the most interesting calls into convenient Tweets.

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