Looking forward to the future of journalism

EMS scanners to fall silent to the public

The crackly radio chatter of police, firefighters and paramedics doing their jobs has always been a lively soundtrack in the newsroom. But Columnist Scott Stroud explains how the scanner traffic in San Antonio is about to grow quieter:

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Starting today, reporters at the Express-News and other local media outlets will not have access to emergency medical services scanner traffic. This will make their jobs harder because they won’t hear addresses where incidents occur, or the reason an ambulance is needed.

It should alarm you, too. The change inhibits your ability to learn how well the police, fire and emergency medical workers that your tax dollars pay for are performing — whether they’re arriving at crime and accident scenes in time to help people in trouble, for example. It also diminishes your ability to know about emergencies that could threaten your well-being.

City Attorney Michael Bernard, who instigated the change, thinks allowing reporters to hear EMS scanner traffic — as they always have — could lead to violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.