• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • FEMA's Use of Waffle House as Severity Indicator a Smart Move

    Recent press reports indicate that FEMA uses the status of Waffle House restaurants to gauge the severity of conditions following a natural disaster. Fox News‘ Garrett Tenney explains:

    After a disaster, officials call a restaurant in the affected area, and ask what’s on the menu. If the restaurant is serving everything, it means there is water and electricity and that the index is green. If the menu has been scaled back, the index is yellow, which means there’s water but no power.

    In the rare event a Waffle House is completely shut down, the index is red and that usually means there’s big trouble.

    While this might strike you as odd at first, such a non-traditional approach makes a lot of sense. Waffle House is a company that seeks to make money, and the amount of money it makes depends on serving customers. If a Waffle House is closed or has only a few menu items available, then it won’t make much money. This profit motive means that Waffle House will do everything it can to remain open or get open as soon as possible after a natural disaster.

    The same concept can be applied to companies like Lowe’s, Home Deport, and Wal-Mart. Those companies invest in capabilities to monitor and track storms so they can prepare their stores for the single purpose of staying or getting back open for customers as soon as possible. If FEMA can leverage their efforts to determine how it can more effectively and efficiently respond to a natural disaster, then full steam ahead.

    For once, FEMA is doing something that we enthusiastically applaud.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to FEMA's Use of Waffle House as Severity Indicator a Smart Move

    1. KJinAZ says:

      Is this story supposed to impress us, or just show us that there may be intelligence at FEMA? Why waffle house, why not cirkle K or 7-11? Better yet why not call a local government official, or maybe the police? My bet is this is another misdirection story. I bet that FEMA has had lots of business meetings with their families at nice resorts. You have to know how these government thieves think, and they want you watching the other hand for a reason. Why else would this make news?

    2. anonymous says:

      This really is a good idea. I would add walmart/sam's to the list. I live on the Gulf Coast and after a direct hit by hurricane Gustav a few years ago one of the first stores open via generator power was Sam's. They also allowed customers without a Sam's card to shop there until things got back to normal. They did an incredible amount of business as our town was under curfew and if you left to get supplies elsewhere you were not allowed back in.

    3. silvergtp says:

      I would hold the applause for now. I can get the same data they seek without an old-fashioned phone call. Localized grid conditions are publicly available from regional operators. The same is true for water. Monitoring traffic camera and webcam networks would also be handy. Hooking into local traffic-light control centers would provide street by street power status.

      Calling Waffle House provides no bandwidth while existing systems provide as much data as you could ever want. That explains why FEMA is terible at responding to events. They don't have the necessary data.

      • Robert R. Russell says:

        You are assuming that the every city in the US has systems that are well integrated. Most cities are not going to spend the money necessary to fully integrate their water and street control networks.

    4. Bobbie says:

      Why would fema go out of their way to make the call on the business and not the business (beyond desperation) call on fema? According to anonymous, sounds like businesses are able to figure things out without outside government interference of fema except to set curfews.

    5. Tom says:

      The original article answers some of the questions posed here. Note these exerpts:

      "Current FEMA Director Craig Fugate came up with the Waffle House Index during his eight years responding to hurricanes as the head of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management. In 2009, Fugate told an audience at the inaugural Random Hacks of Kindness, Disaster Relief Codejam event in Washington that practical indicators are much more informative than checking with a host of local utilities and law enforcement agencies when initially trying to assess a stricken area. And Waffle House is as reliable a practical indicator as there is, he said.

    6. Tom says:


      "'If you get there and the Waffle House is closed, or in the case of Mississippi on the coast, it's a slab, that's red,' Fugate said.

      "It's no accident that Waffle House is so valued in disaster assessment. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed seven of its restaurants and forced 100 more to close in 2005, the chain revamped its disaster preparedness, according to The Wall Street Journal. Much of the effort went into creating a limited menu based on diminished capabilities and keeping supplies near storm-riddled areas."

    7. John says:

      You are assuming that the every city in the US has systems that are well integrated. Most cities are not going to spend the money necessary to fully integrate their water and street control networks.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.