The section Operating Your Ham Radio in an Emergency from Ham Radio For Dummies recommends using an "emergency autopatch" to reach the emergency services when reporting an emergency from an amateur radio transmitter:

  1. State clearly that you are making an emergency autopatch (a feature that allows you to make a telephone call from your repeater) and then activate the autopatch system.

If you cannot activate the repeater's autopatch, you may ask another repeater user to activate it for you. Or, on HF or VHF, you can ask for someone to make an emergency relay to 911. In this case, report all the necessary material and then stand by on frequency until the relaying station reports to you that the information is relayed and the call is complete.

  1. Dial 911 and when the operator responds, state your name and that you are reporting an emergency via amateur radio.

  2. Follow the directions of the operator from there.

If the operator asks you to stay on the line, do so and ask the other repeater users to please stand by.

  1. When the operator finishes, release the autopatch and announce that you released the autopatch.

Apparently autopatches (aka "phone patches"?) are common in the USA, but searching the Web has turned up scant information about them in, for example, the UK.

That makes me wonder: are they legal in the UK, and if so, where can I find out more about how they are regulated and used there?

Likewise for other jurisdictions.


1 Answer 1


Phone patches (autopatches) are not legal in the UK.

The restriction is largely because a phone patch allows you to contact non-licensed people using amateur radio.

Of course, in an actual emergency, anyone can transmit anything on any frequency - but in a non-emergency situation there are strict restrictions on 'third-party traffic' (i.e. passing messages or voice from non-licensed people over amateur radio). In the UK, some club stations are allowed to pass third-party traffic, and at special events this is also sometimes permitted. This is usually done using a NoV (Notice of Variation) on the licence used by the club or individual during a special event.

  • $\begingroup$ Any chance you could link/quote the relevant official documentation? I've looked, but evidently in the wrong places, because I couldn't find any. (I'm interested in learning about amateur radio, but am not yet licensed/trained/active, so I'm still unsure whether this sort of thing is to be found at legislation.gov.uk or ofcom.org.uk or rsgb.org or elsewhere.) Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – user5147
    Aug 17, 2015 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ There is mention of it during a Q&A session with OfCom here : ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/ra/topics/amateur/document/edin.htm ... I am trying to find a more concrete mention in the regulations though. The rules tend to tell you what you are allowed to do though, rather than listing everything you are not ... $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Aug 18, 2015 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I should have mentioned that I'd already found that page in the web search I performed before I asked my question. Unfortunately, that page is ambiguous: the context leaves unclear whether phone patches are completely disallowed in the UK, or only disallowed for certain license classes or suchlike. That's one of the reasons why I turned to ham.stackexchange in hope of a clear answer and links to relevant official documentation :) $\endgroup$
    – user5147
    Aug 18, 2015 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ To my knowledge they have never been allowed in the uk. At least they weren't allowed when I got my G7 in 1989 or my G0 in 1993. And there would have been mention if they had since allowed them $\endgroup$
    – Scott Earle
    Aug 18, 2015 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ OK, but since a constitutional principle of English law is that everything which is not forbidden is allowed, there must presumably be some legislation or case law that implicitly or explicitly forbids phone patches. I'd be grateful to know which law/judgement that is. Thanks again :) $\endgroup$
    – user5147
    Aug 18, 2015 at 14:44

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