How FEMA uses Waffle Houses in disasters

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Waffle House's decision to close or remain open also indicates the complexity and length of supply chains for food, fuel, and power.

The Georgia-based chain is known for its 365-day, 24-hour service, and the company has teams of response units that can be deployed, with Waffle House trucks, vans, and generators, should a restaurant choose to stay open in adverse conditions. Waffle House's record for staying open has even the Federal Emergency Management agency unofficially analyzing the activity to know how severe a storm is.

No matter what Hurricane Florence brings to Myrtle Beach, the Waffle House off Highway 501 will be open, doing all they can. "Plan ahead and be safe", they tweeted. For that reason, it can be a good indicator of a storm's path of destruction when Waffle House is closed for business.

Because of this, FEMA internally uses an unofficial "Waffle House Index" to track potentially unsafe events.

Fugate stepped down in January 2017 and was replaced by Brock Long, but the Waffle House Index remains.

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The Waffle House posted on their social media Wednesday that they have active the Waffle House Storm Center in Norcross ahead of Hurricane Florence. If the restaurant has a limited menu, often meaning the freezer is out, it's labeled yellow.

For most restaurants, closing for a hurricane is done without the blink of an eye. At the front of the room, three screens showed storm maps and news coverage of Category 4 hurricane's path. You can't make this stuff up, and that's just a lot of pressure to put on a place that sells waffles. In Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, an employee of a still-operating Waffle House told a reporter that during 2016's Hurricane Matthew, the location closed only after the ceiling tiles began to fall. We have 250 restaurants, and we are monitoring resources so they can roll in right after the storm.

Former FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate came up with the Waffle House Index as a way to determine how an overall community was faring during a disaster. Have you heard of the Waffle House index?

"The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can reopen, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again - signaling a stronger recovery for that community", the agency wrote in a 2011 blog post.

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