Public Relations Review 29 (2003) 281–290
Crisis management planning and the threat of bioterrorism
Brenda J. Wrigley
, Charles T. Salmon, Hyun Soon Park
Department of Advertising, College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University,
309 Communication Arts & Sciences Bldg., East Lansing, MI 48824-1212, USA
Received 29 March 2002; received in revised form 27 March 2003; accepted 12 April 2003
With acts of bioterrorism increasingly garnering attention worldwide, the subject of crisis prepared-
ness for organizations takes on added meaning. This study of 72 of Michigan’s largest corporations
found that 70% of those surveyed had crisis management plans in place, but only 12% had plans that
speciﬁcally dealt with bioterrorism. Awareness of bioterrorism, perceived seriousness and controllabil-
ity,and perceived susceptibilitywere signiﬁcant andpositive predictors of willingness to develop a crisis
management plan. This snapshot of crisis communication preparedness was taken during a critical time
in American history—immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and during the
ﬁrst reports of a death in the United States from an anthrax attack.
© 2003 Published by Elsevier Inc.
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States reminded citizens and com-
munications professionals alike that crisis preparedness needs to be of high priority for organi-
zationsofall types. Subsequent incidents involvinganthrax bacteria only servedto heighten the
sense of urgency. Government ofﬁcials rushed to reassure publics that the situation, while seri-
ous, was being addressed. Undoubtedly, in many corporations and other organizations around
the country, discussions were hastily convened on grimly realistic topics that heretofore had
been considered little more than science ﬁction.
The current study of crisis preparedness for bioterrorism incidents was readied for the ﬁeld
prior to the September 11th incidents. Pretests were conducted September 10th and actual data
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-517-355-7556; fax: +1-517-432-2589.
E-mail addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org (B.J. Wrigley), email@example.com (C.T. Salmon), firstname.lastname@example.org
0363-8111/$ – see front matter © 2003 Published by Elsevier Inc.