More Words, Less Action: A Framing Analysis of FEMA Public Relations Communications During Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav

Publication Date: 2010 Spring

Source: SO03 Public Relations Journal
Product Code: 6D-040204
Organization/Author/Firm: Seth Oyer, Ph.D. / J. Keith Saliba, Ph.D. / Franklin Yartey
Member price:
Non-Member price:

View PDF PDF File


“FEMA doesn't evacuate communities. FEMA does not do law enforcement. FEMA does not do communications...Many may be surprised to learn that, guess what, FEMA doesn't own fire trucks. We don't own ambulances. We don't own search and rescue equipment. The people of FEMA are being tired of being beat up, and they don't deserve it.”
--Federal Emergency Management Agencies (FEMA) Director Michael D. Brown during a congressional hearing in January 2006

This study comparatively analyzes the Federal Emergency Management Agency's crisis public relations communication leading up to and during hurricanes Katrina and Gustav to determine what, if any, changes FEMA made to its communication strategy. Employing framing analysis, the authors discovered that, aside from an increase of more than double the number of words devoted to its Gustav crisis communication, the action statements within FEMA’s crisis rhetoric had significantly decreased since that before and during Katrina.