OK, let's get this straight (and spelled right)...
are able to listen to fire and police calls; I'm doing it right now. However, I cannot easily pick up calls towns more than 20 miles away; it happens, but not often.
The frequencies change over time. You may need to re-program what you saved. I called my local police and fire houses (non-emergency lines) to ask what frequencies they use, and they were more than happy to tell me.
Also, some calls are made on one frequency and responses on another. Some municipalities have a central dispatch, others such as the State Highway Patrol have districts with a different frequency for each one.
...and sometimes the scanner is quiet just because there isn't any activity going on.
There are also private frequencies that cannot be cracked (legally).
One thing I've learned by listening to my scanner (Radio Shack PRO-95 1000 Channel Dual Trunking) is that if a person gets pulled over by the cops, PERSONAL INFORMATION IS NOT PRIVATE. I've heard descriptions of people and their cars, license plate and driver's license numbers, home addresses and social security numbers (whether or not used as your license number).
And baby monitors in the home transmit private conversations that can be heard over the air waves (scanners, hearing aids, cell phones, corless phones, portable TV's and other wireless listening devices).
I know this is more information than asked for but it's useful to know.
Have fun with your scanner. I love mine.