DEAR AOC: Did You Know That FEMA Uses The ‘Waffle House Index’ To Aid With Risk And Disaster Management?

Written by K. Walker on September 2, 2019

As capitalism gets a bad rap with a certain cohort of leftists, one government agency looking to some large corporations to gauge the severity of natural disasters.

Some “Democratic Socialists” see the government as the be-all, end-all. But often, private corporations are much more efficient than government organizations. That’s because it’s their own money that is on the line rather than the never-ending flow of taxpayer dollars. 

Several of these leftists paint the focus on profit as evil “corporate greed” and refuse to acknowledge that sometimes an open Waffle House is much more than just a place to buy a meal.

At the time of this writing, Hurricane Dorian is still approaching the U.S. coast, and a room full of Waffle House executives are monitoring the storm at the “Waffle House Storm Center” in Norcross, Georgia just as closely as the experts at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

And the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is watching Waffle House.

The unofficial metric is called the “Waffle House Index” and is a key component in FEMA’s assessment of risk and disaster management.

The 24-hour Southern breakfast chain enlisted a team of weather experts at its Georgia-based “storm room” to decide if they should shutter any restaurants, a rep for the firm said.

The officials were glued to the Weather Channel, along with hyper-focused storm tracking software, as they munched a lunch of patty melts, grilled chicken sandwiches and — what else? — waffles from the restaurant, said public relations director Pat Warner.

But they ultimately decided, along with regional vice presidents, to wait until the weekend to make a call on whether to close shop.

Source: New York post

Warner explained that the Index was first used after Hurricane Charley in 2004 when former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate made a “semi-serious joke” when he was asked how the effects of a natural disaster are gauged.

“He told folks if the Waffle House was still open to keep driving until you find one that’s closed,” Warner said. “We’ve built a reputation for opening up quickly after a disaster. Fugate recognized that and kind of shone a spotlight on that.”

It’s not really an official, organized index anywhere, Warner added, but used internally to see how quickly a community is coming back.

Source: Miami Herald

In a blog post on the FEMA website, Director of External Affairs at FEMA Region III, Dan Stoneking, wrote a blog post about the so-called Waffle House Index.

Yesterday, EHS Today, a magazine for environment, health and safety leaders, explained that major companies such as The Home Depot, Walmart, and Waffle House serve as role models in disaster preparedness. They’ve taken necessary steps to prepare. These companies have good risk management plans to ensure that their stores continue to operate when a disaster strikes, and also provide basic supplies to people in their community.

Source: FEMA

The index looks like this:

Green: Waffle House is open and offering the full menu.

Yellow: Waffle House is open, but the menu is limited.

Red: Waffle House is closed.

Waffle House is well-prepared for emergencies and rarely closes, so a Red designation is a pretty big deal.

“We never close, and if we do, it’s an ordeal,” Warner said. “Our folks have to turn off things and locks the doors. We have a checklist.”

Source: Miami Herald

How well-prepared is Waffle House? They set up “jump teams” of operators across the Southeast. They determine which restaurants which are likely to be affected and send generators, RVs, and gas to those locations. They also ensure that they are fully stocked with food.

Jump teams are made up of Waffle House contractors, construction workers, gas line experts, restaurant operators, food providers and other associates who are assembled and ready to go wherever needed at a moment’s notice. Their purpose is to help relieve local Waffle House operators and employees who need to evacuate, be with their families or tend to their homes when a storm hits, and help make sure restaurants are able to open quickly after a storm or stay open during a storm.

“Their role is to go in right afterwards and get the restaurants open and get them running,” Warner said. “The great thing about our system is we try to be consistent across the nation. If you know how to run a Waffle House in Mississippi, you can run one in South Carolina, because all the systems are the same.”

it’s not just to maximize profits, though limiting the time that the restaurant is closed is a motivator. A day that the doors are closed is a day that they’re not making money.

After a natural disaster, sometimes people need to get a hot meal, go to a place with air conditioning, a place to charge a cellphone, or just want to get out and do something “normal.”

And don’t forget — first responders need to eat, too.

“We have the reputation we’re going to be open quickly. First responders and the National Guard will reach out to us and we’re very happy to open for them,” Warner said. “But the real reason it goes back to is our culture. It’s for our customers. We’re here 24/7/365, so our customers are used to us being there, and we want to get open as quickly as possible after a storm. And more importantly, for our associates. If we’re closed, they’re not making money and we feel like we have a responsibility to be there for them.”

It’s more than just economic recovery and profits, though. It’s about something much more important — hope. 

In the emergency management world, having businesses that are able to open quickly after storms is important for the community to get back to normal. Businesses up and running allows officials to clear shelters, and if they can clear shelters, they can get schools back open, which prompts more businesses to open and families to return home.

“It means the community has hope,” he said. “It means that the power is most likely on in that particular area, it means you have a place to eat, which is always good for first responders and locals. It means things might actually be all right. It’s like the sunrise after the storm.”

Source: Pensacola NeWs Journal

This is the thing that the “Democratic Socialists” refuse to acknowledge — that capitalism isn’t just about profit. There has to be some consideration for the customers as well, or they won’t be customers for long. They’ll find somewhere else to go.

Waffle House has positioned itself as the go-to place after an emergency. It’s a place for respite for first responders, and a place for a community to come together and recover after a natural disaster. That’s is what builds customer loyalty.

Cheers, to your ingenuity, Waffle House!

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ClashDaily's Associate Editor since August 2016. Self-described political junkie, anti-Third Wave Feminist, and a nightmare to the 'intersectional' crowd. Mrs. Walker has taken a stand against 'white privilege' education in public schools. She's also an amateur Playwright, former Drama teacher, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma. Follow her humble musings on Twitter: @TheMrsKnowItAll