Tag Archives: Ottawa Police Service

Reporter’s toolkit: Decoding the scanner

You might be sitting in the newsroom next to the scanner, or suddenly find yourself assigned to a breaking story, and have no idea what all those codes mean.

Not to worry – the fantastic Zev Singer, night reporter extraordinaire, has broken them down, and agreed to let me post them here.

We send this list of codes to our new interns and apprentices and frankly – to anyone who has forgotten.

In our newsroom, the scanners we’re hearing are fire and ambulance communications. Police are on digital communications that our scanner doesn’t pick up. This isn’t a huge deal, because ambulance and fire are usually called if it’s a big incident. Once in a while, our scanner will hear OC Transpo security guys too, but not usually.

Okay, terms, courtesy of Mr. Singer:

MVC or MVA: Motor Vehicle Collision or Motor Vehicle Accident (they use both)

VSA: Vital Signs Absent. While this is clearly an important one, when we hear it, we listen a bit more to see if it’s a medical, in which case it’s not likely news.

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