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Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Waffle House Index: FEMA's "How screwed are you?" gauge

Posted By on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 1:12 PM

As we prepare for National Waffle Week, let's pass the mic to FEMA director Craig Fugate, ladies and gentleman: "If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? ... That's really bad. That's where you go to work."

The ol' Waffle House Index, developed by Dr. Hashbrowns von Larrythecableguy, is a gauge used by the disaster response agency following hurricane landfall in the U.S. to determine its impact on a given area.

... and here's how it works!

Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.

During Hurricane Irene, Waffle House lost power to 22 restaurants in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, according to the WSJ. But in Weldon, N.C. that weekend, the fryers were up and running. Even the diners in Joplin, Mo., stayed open after the devastating tornadoes. Following Katrina, the company lost seven of its restaurants and 100 more were shut down — Waffle House jumped into the disaster recovery biz and invested in generators and a mobile command center (named "EM-50" after the Stripes' "urban assault vehicle").

FEMA explains: "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."

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