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Miscommunication during the Anthrax Attacks: How Events Reveal Organizational Failures


This study of the anthrax attacks of 2001 treats risk communication as a series of events that can be analyzed to discern the strengths and weaknesses of organizations charged with responding to emergencies. To investigate how organizational practices shape risk communication, we use amethod developed primarily for comparative-historical case studies called event-structure analysis. We analyze events leading to false media reports of anthrax infections in one New Jersey town soon after an infection by a potentially lethal strain of anthrax was confirmed in a nearby postal facility. This analytic method highlights the failures of organizations to institutionalize public health practices, which allowed contingent events to determine risk messages and responses.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

O'Neill, Karen M., Jeffrey M. Calia, Caron Chess, and Lee Clarke. 2007. "Miscommunication during the Anthrax Attacks: How Events Reveal Organizational Failures." Human Ecology Review 14 (January): 119-129. http://www.humanecologyreview.org/pastissues/her142/oneilletal.pdf

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