Risk Communication Failure: A Case Study of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina
The devastating event that was hurricane Katrina is a fertile field for risk and crisis communication scholars. As a case study in failed risk communication by the City of New Orleans, this paper explores the inadequacies of the risk communication based upon Lundgren and McMakin (2004) as augmented by Rowan's (1991) rhetorical perspective. The analysis concludes that while the care communication was adequate, inadequate clarity, insufficient credibility, and a failure to properly adapt to critical audiences resulted in a failure of consensus communication and crisis communication. Several lessons learned are advanced: (a) effective care communication is to little avail if the subsequent consensus and crisis messages are inadequate, (b) message preparation before the crisis is essential, (c) to be effective, messages must be credible to their recipient audiences, and (d) ethnicity, class, gender, and similar demographic characteristics of audiences must be adapted to if risk communication messages are to be effective.