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This is an old presentation from 2006 on leadership and media communication in the wake of Hurricane Rita. Considering the threat posed by Hurricane Sandy and the extent of the evacuation orders all along the East Coast, I figured it might be a timely presentation to share. Full citation: Weisgerber, C. & Butler, S. (2006, April). “Should we stay or should we go? Leadership communication in the face of a potentially catastrophic hurricane”. Paper presented to the Crisis Communication Division of the Southern States Communication Association, Dallas, TX.

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Communicating Hurricane Evacuation Orders: A Case Study


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communicating hurricane evacuation orders a case study

Communicating Hurricane Evacuation Orders: A Case Study

Leadership & Media Communicationin the Face of a Potentially Catastrophic Hurricane

hurricane rita crisis communication model intensi

Hurricane Rita: Crisis Communication Model Intensification Loop NOAA Media Officials Media Public Media Insiders Aid Services Discussion 1st Responders Experience Context: Hurricane KatrinaGatekeeping functions & sensationalism reduces the Cone of Uncertainty.Path of devastation becomes inevitable.Discussion of alternative scenario becomes irresponsible.

media communication when this is over

MEDIA COMMUNICATION“When this is over andeverybody’s home, two thingsneed to be investigated andcorrected: Houston’s evacuationplans - and television news’ rolein making us all crazy this pastweek.” Ken Hoffman (Houston Chronicle)

an of cial category 5 monster the most powerful

‣ An official category 5 monster ‣ The most powerful hurricane ever to enter the gulf ‣ One of the largest storms ever to hit the Gulf Coast ‣ One of the largest and most destructive storms that people in these parts have ever seen ‣ Third strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded ‣ A very enormous storm ‣ The worst of hurricanes ‣ About as strong as a hurricane getsNaming the Storm in the Media(Examples from news broadcasts between Sept. 21 & Sept. 22)

media descriptions of worst case scenarios pretty

Media Descriptions of Worst Case Scenarios“Pretty much everything inits path is going down,Wolf. Well constructedbuildings, they’d have tobe pretty solid concrete tobe able to sustain windslike that.” CNN meteorologist“Well-built homes will be “Residences and industrial buildings (will) bedestroyed. [...] But well- destroyed. All shrubs, trees, signs (will be)constructed homes, (will blown down.”be) very well demolishedthrough the storm system, “There could be as much as $73 billion worthnot much can survive of damage, 124 million tons of debris,that.” CNN meteorologist destroying maybe 120,000 homes.”

graphics as fearappeals you see galveston there

Graphics as FearAppeals“You see Galveston there, theinlet. What we’re talking about,if you went to this category ofstorm would be flooding [sic]that would make the picturelook like that.”“Basically the island woulddisappear underwater.”“Essentially it would all gocompletely underwater.”-- Wolf Blitzer talking to CNN correspondent (The Situation Room, Sept. 21)

blitzer hurricane rita now of cially a category

Blitzer: Hurricane Rita now officially a Category 5 monster [...] the mayor now calling for a voluntary evacuation of the Houston area. That’s about 4 million people in the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. Mayor Bill White said this only a few moments ago. (Begin Video Clip) White: All people who are in the storm surge areas, all the regions, A, B, and C, are encouraged to evacuate.Amplifying the Problem in the NewsThe Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (Sept. 21, 2005)

hurricane rita crisis communication model intensi 1

Hurricane Rita: Crisis Communication Model Intensification LoopNOAA Media Officials Media Public Media Insiders Aid Services Discussion 1st Responders Experience Context: Hurricane Katrina

we are calling for voluntary evacuation from

“We are calling for voluntary evacuation from severaldifferent areas.” Mayor Bill White, Sept. 21.“Is there a mandatory evacuation in Houston or is thissimply voluntary?” “There is a mandatory, andmandatory does not mean that we’re going to forcepeople to leave.” Wolf Blitzer talking to Houston Police Chief HaroldHurtt, Sept. 22.“We’re not going to stop anybody. And now we are inthe process of adjusting the plans to accommodateeverybody that wants to leave.” Police Chief Hurtt, Sept. 22.“If some people insist on staying -- perhaps they shouldwrite their Social Security numbers on their arms withindelible ink.” Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco & Port Lavaca MayorAlan Tharling, Sept. 22.42% of people outside evacuation areas left.Mandatory, voluntary, or general evacuation?

messages before during the evacuation

Messages before &during the evacuation‣ Get see Galveston there,“You water & batteries theinlet. What we’re talking about,‣ Stay on the evacuation routeif you went to this category of‣ Fuel trucks are flooding [sic]storm would be underwaythat would make the picture‣ Contra-flow is about to openlook like that.”‣ You made the right choice“Basically the island a hotel‣ Drive until you find woulddisappear underwater.”“Essentially it would all go Problem:completely underwater.” ‣ No routes out & no gas-- Wolf Blitzer talking to CNN correspondent ‣ No hotels Situation Room, Sept. 21) (The ‣ 100+ degree heat

of cial advice buy water and batteries empty

Official Advice: “Buy water and batteries”Empty store shelves in the wake of Rita

messages before during the evacuation 1

Messages before &during the evacuation‣ Get see Galveston there,“You water & batteries theinlet. What we’re talking about,‣ Stay on the evacuation routeif you went to this category of‣ Fuel trucks are flooding [sic]storm would be underwaythat would make the picture‣ Contra-flow is about to openlook like that.”‣ You made the right choice“Basically the island a hotel‣ Drive until you find woulddisappear underwater.”“Essentially it would all gocompletely underwater.”-- Wolf Blitzer talking to CNN correspondent (The Situation Room, Sept. 21)

messages before during the evacuation 2

Messages before &during the evacuation‣ Get see Galveston there,“You water & batteries theinlet. What we’re talking about,‣ Stay on the evacuation routeif you went to this category of‣ Fuel trucks are flooding [sic]storm would be underwaythat would make the picture‣ Contra-flow is about to openlook like that.”‣ You made the right choice“Basically the island a hotel‣ Drive until you find woulddisappear underwater.”“Essentially it would all gocompletely underwater.”-- Wolf Blitzer talking to CNN correspondent (The Situation Room, Sept. 21)

drive until you nd a hotel best western vacancies

“Drive until you find a hotel” Best Western Vacancies

drive until you nd a hotel best western vacancies 1

“Drive until you find a hotel” Best Western Vacancies

rita a communication crisis unclear evacuation

Rita: A Communication Crisis?‣ Unclear evacuation orders ‣ Media graphics as fear appeals‣ Unhelpful advice to stranded ‣ Media discussion of worst case motorists scenarios‣ Exaggerated statements of the way ‣ Media sensationalism in naming back the storm ‣ Media misrepresentations of official messages

creditscorinne weisgerber ph d shannan butler

CREDITSCorinne Weisgerber, Ph.D. Shannan Butler, Ph.D.Associate Prof. of Communication Associate Prof. of CommunicationSt. Edward’s University St. Edward’s University@corinnew @shannanbutler