Need To Know How Bad A Disaster Is? Check The Waffle House Index.

After a natural disaster, the United States Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA) jumps into action to deliver supplies to affected communities. But with all the chaos, it's not always clear what those communities need. For a helpful benchmark of how things are on the ground, FEMA director W. Craig Fugate came up with the Waffle House Index. It's a three-color rating that uses green to denote that the local Waffle House restaurant is fully open, yellow for if it's just serving a limited menu (suggesting that it can't get the supplies it needs), and red for closed (a very rare occurrence for the 24-hour chain).

A Waffle House in Jacksonville. Waffle House Inc. is a restaurant chain with over 1700 locations found in 25 states in the United States.

But why would a powerful government agency rely on a business known for the funny words it has for hash-brown toppings? Because that business knows disaster. Waffle House locations are primarily in the American South, where tornadoes and hurricanes are a common occurrence. For the business to survive these disasters—not to mention help customers survive them—it has to have a rock-solid plan in place. And it does.

In a blog post for FEMA, Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer noted some of the ways Waffle House responds when disaster strikes, including actually sending the board of directors to the affected location so they can make decisions on the ground. That's why if a Waffle House is closed, you know the situation is dire.

Find out more about emergency preparedness with the videos below.

The Waffle House Index

Find out how FEMA uses this 24-hour restaurant to track hurricanes.

How Do We Know When Hurricanes Are Coming?

Delve into the technology.

How Has FEMA Changed Since Hurricane Katrina?

Explore the evolution of this government agency.

Written by Curiosity Staff October 21, 2016

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