From Class Session 1: An organizational crisis is anything which could:
- Threaten a major product line, business unit
- Damage an organization's financial performance
- Harm the health and well being of consumers, employees, surrounding communities, or the environment
- Destroy the public's trust in an organization, its reputation and image
Seeger, Sellnow and Ulmer define organizational crises as "specific, unexpected, and non-routine events or series of events that [create] high levels of uncertainty and threat or perceived threat to an organization's high priority goals."
S.J. Venette defines crisis more generally as a process of transformation where the old system can no longer be maintained." 
Crises are often unexpected because:
- cognitive limits: we can't foresee everything, and can attend to only a limited number of tasks, threats and priorities
- the events/trends we can and do foresee can often be mitigated and thus prevented from becoming crises.
- denial and other psychological responses provide protection for our emotions.
Crises in the future may be much more severe and life-threatening
The past century and a half has been a period of great political and economic stability in America. This is more the exception than the rule throughout history. Moreover, many ominous developments suggest the possibility, even likelihood, of cataclysmic local, national and planetary crises with which individuals and organizations will have to cope.
 Seeger, M. W.; Sellnow, T. L.; Ulmer, R. R. (1998). "Communication, organization, and crisis". Communication Yearbook 21: 231-275.
 Venette, S. J. (2003). Risk communication in a High Reliability Organization: APHIS PPQ's inclusion of risk in decision making. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Proquest Information and Learning.
 Mitroff.I. (2005) Why some companies emerge stronger and better from a crisis, p36
 Mitroff.I. (2001)