Frequently Asked Questions

Here we answer some of the more frequently asked questions.

  1. What is BLACK SWAN 17? A communications exercise that tests the ability for radio services to operate in emergencies where normal infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed. The area of operations is Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.
  2. What are the goals of BLACK SWAN 17? A formal set of goals can be found in the EXPLAN. Roughly, we are looking to test how responders, emergency management agencies, and non-government organizations (NGOs) activate, operate, and complete communications missions. We are looking specifically to measure volume, accuracy, and speed of radio traffic. ARRL Field Organizations should be able to use this activity as their annual Simulated Emergency Test (SET).
  3. When is BLACK SWAN 17? The main event ("intense activity") is the 48-hour window of 7-8 October, though the scenario will be active 1-15 October. Organizations that want to participate but cannot during intense activity will be able to run their own exercises in any 48-hour window during the scenario.
  4. How can I prepare for BLACK SWAN 17? Several things will help you get going.
      1. Identify the group that's participating. We are interested in government agencies, NGOs involved in preparation for, response to, and recovery from emergencies like those brought on by severe weather. If you are associated with an NWS office, hospital system, state or local EMA, CERT, RACES organization, ARRL Field Organization, independent radio traffic net, please contact us.
      2. Articulate your goals as an organization. Hospital systems will likely want to exercise their ability to get timely and valuable information; ARES groups likely want to test how they can activate amateur radio circuits at their served agencies; traffic nets will likely want to see how much traffic they can move, how quickly they can move it, and how accurately they can move it. Each organization's mission will define what they need out of, or how they can provide, emergency mode communications when Internet, phone, and standard trunked radio services are compromised or unavailable.
      3. Assign responsible people to critical roles for your organization. You will need the following:
          1. Liaison: This is one person (and ideally an alternate) who will work with the Exercise Director to ensure that the master exercise plan includes elements that the organization needs to benefit from the exercise, and to receive bulletins from the exercise director that need to be distributed to the rest of the participating organization.
          2. Controllers: A small number of people who do not play in the exercise, but have oversight for it, ensuring that players do not run out of things to do because the pace is too slow, or that things unrealistically stack up. Controllers are also responsible for safety of the players and the operation. For example, if a real-world event requires that players respond to the real event, controllers must modify or even call a halt to play to ensure that critical assets are available. Controllers in participating organizations will have real-world telephone communication with the exercise director to help coordinate among participating groups.
          3. Players: These are the people who will be activating the teams, conducting operations, and participating in the Hot Wash that follows right after end of exercise.
          4. Evaluators: At least one person should be designated to assess the performance of the organization against the goals articulated in the local exercise plan. In smaller organizations, a controller may also perform the role of evaluator.
          5. Observers: Optionally, your organization might want to have others observe the exercise. These could be members of your served agency, liaisons to other agencies, members of the press, or anyone else with an interest, or who would represent someone with an interest in the organization's success in emergency communication.
      4. Publicize the event. Even without knowing all of the details, you can locally set the date and time of the operation. We hope that you are able to participate in the entire 48-hour period of 7-8 October, but in any case, set the date and time that you begin and end your activity, and publicize it. Use #BLACKSWAN17 tag on social media, send email to your members, publish in newsletters, and undertake any other awareness that prepares people to participate.
      5. Register your organization! The exercise director will need to work with liaisons of participating organizations to develop and distribute details of the exercise that will not be published publicly ahead of the event to ensure realistic play. Have your designated liaison register online at https://sites.google.com/view/blackswan/2017/register-to-participate.
      6. Be ready to use the Labor Day information packet to have your controllers, evaluators, and liaison (but not players!) complete the exercise plan template so you will have your own detailed plan, timeline, and materials needed to undertake play.
  5. Where can I find more information? The current Concept of Operations, News, and other information is available from the BLACK SWAN 17 web site at https://sites.google.com/view/blackswan/.