Testing radio reception at a home or business can be tricking, but certainly possible. If one follows these simple directions, radio reception can very likely be improved in a matter of hours.
Step 1: Have the basic necessities
Start with the right equipment, which begins by knowing the type of radio needed to decode and capture the radio traffic you want to receive. Site Survey America recommends RadioReference.com as the database to verify the type of signal in your area (Phase I Digital, Phase II Digital, DMR, Analog, ProVoice, OpenSky, Enhanced Digital Access Communication System (EDACS), Logic Trunked Radio (LTR), and so on) is compatible with the type of equipment, specifically scanner or two way radio, you possess.
Next, you will need a long enough coax cable that will reach from the radios to the antenna you use for reception. RG58 or, for longer runs, LMR400 coax cable is recommended. Be sure to use a cable that will have the proper connections at each end; typically a BNC or SMA connectior at the radio and an N connector for the antenna, but check your antenna user manual to be sure you receive the right cable the first time.
Finally and obviously, ensure your antenna or antennas are safely installed at the highest location possible. Radio reception is line-of-site, so typically the higher one can install the antenna, the better chance for quality reception. Also consider a directional antenna (as seen in Figure 1) over an omnidirectional antenna so that the reception elements can be focused at the transmitting radio tower you want to receive.
Step 2: Observe signal strength for each of the channel you wish to receive
This is the time consuming part of the reception site survey. In order to understand the quality of reception for a particular conventional channel or trunked frequency, a transmission would need to be in process and the scanner or 2-way radio needs to be tuned to that channel at that time. Using a directional antenna, one will need to slowly move the antenna around in hopes of locking onto a channel when a transmission is being broadcast as well as while the radio is locked onto that channel. This can be a challenge and often takes the bulk of the time to do the survey.
It is obvious but important to note here that caution is paramount in this situation. Rooftop antennas and attempting to adjust them while on a roof is extremely dangerous. Use the utmost caution, employ all safety measures to save lives, and carry insurance.
Once one can observe that all or a majority of channels can be received by the radio with the antenna locked in one direction, secure it to the roof or structure.
Step 3: What if radio reception cannot be achieved with one antenna?
If you find that the reception you wish to attain requires multiple antennas focused on multiple radio towers, you may want to contact Site Survey America for assistance. This can be a complicated mix of filters and connectors to make it work correctly. Nevertheless, if you wish to do this on your own, consider a wideband antenna spliter/combiner such as the Diamond SS-500.
Otherwise, anther option is to simply use more than one radio to receive the various departments and signals you’d like to hear and connect each to the type of antenna needed to achieve the reception you want.
If all of this sounds too complicated or you run into further problems, simply contact Site Survey America for a free consultation.