Public Organization Review

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 415-431

First online:

Chaos Theory and Organizational Crisis: A Theoretical Analysis of the Challenges Faced by the New Orleans Police Department During Hurricane Katrina

  • Terri M. AdamsAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology & Anthropology, Howard University Email author 
  • , Larry D. StewartAffiliated withDepartment of Social and Behavioral Science, Savannah State University

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The Hurricane Katrina disaster presented the first responder agencies of New Orleans with an extraordinary set of circumstances. Although all first responder operations were hampered by the disaster, the police department’s struggles were made most visible in the media. This article examines the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the organizational functions of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) during and immediately after the disaster using chaos theory as a model for analyzing the crisis faced by the department. Chaos theory has implications for a variety of features that are essential to organizational functions and management behavior that are relevant to first responder agencies. Review of the challenges faced by NOPD has implications for preparedness plans for other first responder agencies.


Chaos Theory Natural Disasters Hurricane Katrina First Responders New Orleans Police Department