HOWTO follow FDNY radio scanners in an emergency


During last night's storm emergency, I monitored the FDNY scanners to try and follow fast-moving and difficult-to-obtain details about what was happening where in NYC. For future reference, is an excellent way to do that (provided you have power and internet access). Along with that, you'll want to have two browser tabs open, for a cheat sheet on the codes the first responders use: Box Codes (find the location of the fire alarm boxes people use to get an FDNY response in an emergency), and FDNY 10 codes (shorthand developed in 1937 for common communication among first responders).

One good thing to keep in mind: not everything you hear on the scanner is confirmed fact. By definition, the first responders are often working with incomplete and unconfirmed calls for help, and chaotic situations. That, combined with the fact that it can be hard to understand what they're saying, make careful listening and sharing essential.


  1. I haven’t seen one of those corner fire call boxes in years. They still have them in New York? They never had very many down here and they got rid of them because they were a source of false alarms and somebody with a cell phone would be around anyway.

    Pretty cool article. 

  2. Xeni, your post last night inspired me to tune that in as well, after finding nothing on HF (shortwave).
    I wanted to let your readers know that the resource you mentioned is available via smartphone apps, too. Just search “scanner” or “radio scanner” in your favorite app marketplace.

      1. I didn’t want to play favorites either but the one I have on my iPhone and Kindle Fire is Scanner Radio Deluxe. It is the only one I’ve tried but I’m satisfied with it. I have the free version on one of my devices and I think I paid a few bucks for the other one, both are fine. It’s fun to have access to local AND distant police/fire/EMS/amateur etc.

  3. There are a number of free Android and iOS apps which will provide feeds from internet-connected scanners.

    I’m listening to the NYFD feed for Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island on my Nexus 7 using the very popular (10MM+ downloads) ‘Scanner Radio’ written by Gordon Edwards available from Google’s Play Store.

    I’ve got ‘5-0 Radio Free’ on the company iPhone. It works, but Gordon’s app is cleaner/better, IMHO.

  4. Just wanted to point out that while radio “10” codes are very common, they are not standardized between services or cities. They may also be changed from time to time as a way to disrupt ambulance chasers, and provide a measure of security and privacy. One case I heard of was a paramedic from one service working temp in another city called in a 10-200 (stopping for coffee) not knowing that in that area a 10-200 was “shots fired, medic/officer down”
    Very important to not assume that the guy using the code even knows what it is. Never make decisions based on info from a scanner, unless you are 100% sure you heard correctly, and the info is in plain english, no jargon or codes.

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