Like many other households, our basement serves several functions. Ours functions as a pantry, warehouse, workspace, entertainment area and a shelter. We use our basement as a daily living space and for that reason I like to have at least one radio scanning while we’re down there and it’s usually scanning the local emergency frequencies. Being below ground level is ideal for a severe weather shelter space but it’s a nightmare for dependable radio reception so we have to rely on elevated external antennas. Here is how we installed a scanner radio in our basement shelter.
The Scanner Radio:
I picked up a used Uniden BC350A Mobile Scanner. This model is not a “digital” scanner and is no longer made. Uniden made some improvements to it and now calls it the BC350C. As you can see in the photo it has been factory refurbished. This is a $10.00 thrift store special that came with the 110V power cable and a cheesy little antenna that attaches directly to the back of the receiver. This radio is meant to pull double duty in a vehicle so it can be powered directly from a 12V power source also. Our basement has 12V back-up juice so we’re good-to-go when the electricity goes down.
There’s more than enough space in this scanner to program in our local analog frequencies. We normally program our scanners to receive the police and fire calls in our county and the surrounding cities. This scanner has several other frequencies like Aircraft and Weather already programmed into it so we won’t have to use any of the private channel space for those frequencies. It’s home will be on my office desk for now but I do have a wall mounting bracket for it if it gets in the way.
The Scanner Antenna:
Knowing that the bulk of our radio monitoring will be in the 450 MHz and 150MHz bands made it pretty easy to select an antenna. We went with the VHF-Hi / UHF Scanner Dipole from this blog’s sponsor, US Dipole. It’s designed to receive not only those two bands but also the 800-850 MHz band. We picked the antenna with the additional band so we could use it when we upgraded to another scanner in the future.
The antenna arrived already assembled so all we had to do was put in the 2 vertical wire elements and tighten the setscrews with the wrench that came with the antenna. This dipole is already set-up to use a Type F coax connection, which is found just about everywhere nowadays. We opted to use a fresh piece of RG6 cable but I know if I looked hard enough that there would have been some that could have been scrounged from an unused cable TV run.
We live in a valley so antenna height is critical, but there is point when an antenna can be too high. The higher the antenna the more it costs to buy cable and other equipment. We wanted to keep this project quick and inexpensive so we opted to mount the antenna as high as possible on one of our home’s second story gable ends which kept our required cable length under 50 feet. The antenna comes with a clamp to attach it to a pole or mast but I elected to make a custom bracket and mount it directly to the gable’s exterior wall.
The coax was attached to the antenna and then run down the roof line and side of the house. It was neatly tucked away inside the vinyl siding corners and J-trim. We terminated the outside coax at a previously installed cable grounding block. That is the one of great things about using TV cable for this project, our home had a ton of free cable TV components leftover from years past. The grounding block is a nice accessory and I like to use them when possible.
That ended the outdoors portion of this job and all that was left was to run a piece of coax from the grounding block inside to the radio. And yes, there was a piece of cable already in place from an unused cable TV install. The scanner has a BNC connection from the factory so we had to use a BNC Male to F Female adapter.
That’s all there was to it. The project was completed in less than an hour and the cost was $58.61 which included the dipole, 50 feet of new RG6, the scanner radio and the adaptor. It was very similar to installing a CB or other 2-way base station except the external antenna didn’t need any tuning adjustments. Time and money was saved by using cable TV wiring and components that were already in place but not being used.