Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2012


College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in Communication

First Advisor

Professor Eui B. Lee


While writing this thesis, Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, affected at least 24 states from Florida to New England in late October 2012. The hurricane devastated New Jersey and New York City with rising death toll and property damages. Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest in 2005. The hurricane killed 1, 833. African American residents in New Orleans were catastrophically affected in flooded parishes by the hurricane. The primary purpose of the current study was to examine the experience of natural disasters among local participants and to evaluate the local media coverage of such events. A total of 128 adults living in the Houston and Galveston area participated in the survey questionnaire in September of2012. This study is based on answering the following research questions: what are the experiences of the African American community in natural disasters, what is the primary source of information African Americans' use to receive information about natural disasters and what are the long-term effects of natural disasters. Even though local TV was the most preferred source of information, our participants also rely on the person-to-person contact in case of natural disasters. They 1 2 get informational and emotional support as well from family, church members, co workers, and school. In terms of utilizing the new media such as the Internet, there was statistically significant gender difference: More male participants use the Internet than female adults. The survey also examined the long-term effects of natural disasters on the financial, health and emotional aspect of respondents. About 28% of the participants revealed financial stress and problems from natural disasters, while 11% agreed on health and 20% on emotional trauma. They also indicated material support from such organizations as FEMA, Red Cross, Church organizations, etc. However, some participants pointed out the slow feedback and follow-up from FEMA. Natural disasters are coverage heavily by the local media, but our respondents complained about the un-even coverage of certain areas of the city and about the potential stories in terms of importance of ratings. This exploratory study contains results from the African American communities in the Houston/Galveston areas. Future study should examine the local risk responses with more diverse and large sample for prevention, warning system, and evacuations. In addition, the role of the new media in natural disasters and emergencies are in high demands today. News media uses the Internet to stream live news coverage for the public to see and hear about natural disasters.