Waffle House Index

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The remains of a Waffle House in Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina

The Waffle House Index is an informal metric used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery.[1]

If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad...[2]

The measure is based on the reputation of Waffle House for having good disaster preparedness and staying open during extreme weather, or reopening quickly afterwards.

Levels[edit]

The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:[2][3]

  • GREEN: full menu – restaurant has power and damage is limited or no damage at all.
  • YELLOW: limited menu – no power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed – indicating severe damage or severe flooding

Background[edit]

The term was coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in May 2011, following the 2011 Joplin tornado, during which the two Waffle House restaurants in Joplin remained open.[4][5]

The measure is based on the reputation of the restaurant chain Waffle House for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornadoes or hurricanes. Waffle House, along with other chains (such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe's) which do a significant proportion of their business in the southern US where there is a frequent risk of hurricanes, have good risk management and disaster preparedness. Because of this, and the fact that a cut-down menu is prepared for times when there is no power or limited supplies, the Waffle House Index rarely reaches the red level.[2][4]

The Waffle House Index sits alongside more formal measures of wind, rainfall, and other weather information, such as the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, which are used to indicate the intensity of a storm.[2]

Dan Stoneking, FEMA director of external affairs, wrote in a FEMA blog post:[6][7]

As Craig [Fugate] often says, the Waffle House test doesn’t just tell us how quickly a business might rebound – it also tells us how the larger community is faring. The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can re-open, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again – signaling a stronger recovery for that community. The success of the private sector in preparing for and weathering disasters is essential to a community’s ability to recover in the long run.

— Dan Stoneking, FEMA News of the Day – What do Waffle Houses Have to Do with Risk Management?

Example[edit]

On Thursday, October 6, 2016, the index reached red when all Waffle House restaurants on Florida's I-95 between Titusville and Fort Pierce were closed. This index change was caused by Hurricane Matthew ravaging Caribbean islands and the east coast of the United States.[8] The index once again reached red in October 2018, when 30 restaurants on the Florida Panhandle were closed ahead of Hurricane Michael.[9]

In the media[edit]

’When a Hurricane Strikes, Weather the Storm With Waffles’ - video news report from Voice of America.

In 2019 the Waffle House Index was mentioned as part of a larger story on CBS News Sunday Morning entitled "Welcome to the Waffle House".[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ McKenna, Maryn (6 December 2016). "If Waffle House Is Closed, It's Time To Panic". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Bauerlein, Valerie (September 1, 2011). "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". The Wall Street Journal.
  3. ^ "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Craig Fugate". National Public Radio. May 28, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today. July 6, 2011.
  5. ^ "What the Waffle House Can Teach About Managing Supply Chain Risk". Insurance Journal. July 19, 2011.
  6. ^ "News of the Day – What do Waffle Houses Have to Do with Risk Management? | FEMA.gov". fema.gov. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  7. ^ Judkis, Maura (September 12, 2018). "Hurricane Florence is a serious threat — just ask the Waffle House storm center". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  8. ^ Helsel, Phil (6 October 2016). "Waffle Houses Close in Florida, in Bad 'Index' Omen". NBC News (Waffle House Index reaches red). Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Hurricane Michael is so bad that Waffle House has closed 30 restaurants". USA Today. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Welcome to the Waffle House". CBS News Sunday Morning. February 3, 2019. Event occurs at 2:47. CBS.

External links[edit]