Waffle House, Exterior

(Photo by Jason Minto, The News Journal)

FEMA Uses Waffle House To Gauge Severity Of Natural Disasters

September 13, 2018

It's called the "Waffle House Index."

During times of natural disaster, the federal government uses several methods to determine the severity of storm damage on a local area.  One of these methods is the Waffle House Index.  FEMA will actually use the restaurant chain as a barometer to determine how well an area will recover from a hurricane, tornado or other disaster.  

A FEMA blog post from 2011 read, "The Waffle House test just doesn't tell us how quickly a business might rebound — it also tells 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 strong recovery for that community."

Waffle House even has their own Storm Center task force!

Former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate described the test in 2016 saying, "They are open most of the time.  And that was the index.  If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad.  We call it red.  If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow.  If they're green, we're good, keep going.  You haven't found the bad stuff yet."

Waffle House, of course, feels a sense of pride about being the barometer of resiliency.  Their goal is to always open its stores as quickly as possible after a storm passes, as they believe getting back to business restores a sense of normalcy in affected areas.