Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Public Relations


Public Relations & Advertising


Ric Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts


Bagin, Donald


Amusement parks--Management; Crisis management


Public Relations and Advertising


This thesis attempts to establish a benchmark for amusement park crisis management through the careful examination of two contrasting crisis response case studies.

The first study, a deadly fire at Six Flags Great Adventure, in Jackson Township, New Jersey, exemplifies the causes, components and effects of improper crisis planning. Analysis of the study closely examines all events leading to and resulting from the fire, with most content coming from the memories of professionals directly involved in the tragedy. Designations of the Six Flags case provided the basis of every amusement crisis plan written since.

The second study, a deadly boat ride at Disneyland, Anaheim, offers a contrasting, but equally significant view of crisis management. In this case, critics viewed the public relations response as too swift and thorough, and thus void of any human regard.

The deficit of public relations was examined in six specific areas: media relations, government scrutiny, public opinion, upper-level management roles and internal communication. All designations were analyzed in light of scholarly works and journalistic accounts to create a functional guide for crisis planning within the amusement industry. A content analysis of the above public relations devices was conducted on a sample of all New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer articles mentioning Six Flags Great Adventure between May 1984 and May 1985.

The study also explores the case studies in light of their effects on the amusement industry as a whole and its current practices. The study highlights the public relations importance of dispelling rumors, CEO involvement, dealing with victims' families, coping with the press surrounding a criminal trial and maintaining credibility standards.