We looked at the webpage and Facebook page for the National Association for Amateur Radio. We also reached out to the Department of Defense and spoke with Eric Hortin, who is the public affairs officer for The Army Network Enterprise Technology Command.
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) outlines the Interoperability training exercise on their website. It says, "Elements of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) will conduct a 'communications interoperability' training exercise November 4-6, once again simulating a 'very bad day' scenario. Amateur Radio and MARS organizations will take part."
"This exercise will begin with a notional massive coronal mass ejection event which will impact the national power grid as well as all forms of traditional communication, including landline telephone, cell phone, satellite, and Internet connectivity," according to Army MARS Program Manager Paul English.
According to the DOD, this means basically they are simulating something like if a solar flare hitting North America. That would create an electromagnetic pulse and wipe out communications such as phone and internet.
The purpose of the exercise is to make sure all amateur radio operators can be contacted and that their radios work.
Hortin said in an interview, “It will not impact any public or private communications and there will be no power outages ... The radio operators are simply asked to provide a status update, a communication that says 'yes we're here, and we're ok.'”
When we spoke to a DOD representative on the phone, they said adamantly that they are not turning off the power grid and that the rumor that they were is false.
The ARRL says this is an exercise that they do four times a year. It's very routine. They also posted on their Facebook page that "No we will not **actually** be turning off the electrical power grid. While I strive for realism when planning exercises, turning off the electricity all across the US is way above my pay-grade, so we just have to simulate that."
Also, no solar storm is expected for that day.
There were other claims that the supposed blackout would coincide with ANTIFA protests. That rumor is also false. The ARRL says, "The date for COMEX 17-4 was set more than a year in advance. Keeping track of the various protest groups calendar of events is more than a little out of our lane."