For an integrated assessment of the vulnerability of societies to drought it is necessary to set the benchmark at a level where the impacts of droughts lead to a state of affairs that departs from normal conditions, i.e. a crisis event. This article aims to improve the understanding of drought-related crisis events on the basis of a twofold media content analysis. This approach enables us to test when increased vulnerability in fact leads to a crisis situation and offers an improved understanding of the intensity and the extent of crisis events. To this end, we first outline our perspective on crisis and give an overview on existing approaches to identify crisis events. We then outline our two-step approach of media content analysis aimed at developing a crisis data set for the case study regions Andhra Pradesh (India), Southern Portugal and the Volga region (Russia). Using the Factiva news database and information by regional newspapers, a crisis data set is generated enabling us to define the occurrence and extent of drought-related crisis events in the case study regions. Moreover, based on attributes of drought impacts reported by news sources, we categorize the extensiveness of a specific drought. As a key result, our findings suggest that Southern Portugal, the case study region which is expected to be less susceptible to drought events than the other case study regions, faced the most extended crisis events.