crisis communications, emergency communication, emergency management, emergency planning, Katrina, lessons learnt, Peloponnese
Crisis communications in natural disasters has a vital importance for social, political and economic reasons. Both theory and experience have shown that some crises are in fact communications crises (Garnett & Kouzmin, 2007). The Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and fires in Peloponnese in Greece in 2007 are two examples of crisis communications failure. Bureaucratic deficiencies, lack of preparation and inexperienced staff have led to communications disaster.
The selection of this cases was made for the following reasons:
- There were casualties
- There was a strong reaction of public opinion
- There was lack of preparation by the government
- There was a lack of coordination at both operational and communication level
The hurricanes in the US and the fires in Greece are natural phenomena with frequent occurrence and they cannot be considered surprising when incurring. What characterizes the two cases is the paradox that while there was awareness of the risk, both government mechanisms in the US and Greece seemed unprepared to meet the expectations and the requirements. The early symptoms of the upcoming catastrophe were disregarded.
Conclusion: The lack of preparedness and readiness are shaky foundations for crisis management.
The difference between the two cases is that the risk in Greece was permanent but not geographically specific whereas in the US there were official warnings days before the disaster for specific geographical areas in clearly defined time perspectives. What emerges through the elements of the research is that there was a strategic plan in the US to deal with natural disasters as opposed to Greece where the risk of fires seemed to be treated at the tactical level. As a result, we can distinguish a timeless deficit of preparedness by the Greek authorities to manage natural disaster crises. In New Orleans, the story could have been very different if the federal and local authorities had implemented the crisis management plans considering that both the state and federal authorities had already been on constant alert because of 9/11.
Conclusion: Preparedness and readiness are necessary in strategic and tactical level.
The appointment of unqualified people to manage crises leads to failure as it was apparent in the US during the Katrina hurricane. The failure of the inexperienced director of FEMA to meet the demands of the occasion preparing the state apparatus before the crisis demonstrates the importance of the proper selection of the right professionals.
Conclusion: Preparedness and readiness for crisis management require professional and experienced staff.