WHI (FEMA and the Waffle House)

The Waffle House Index is an informal metric named after the Waffle House restaurant chain to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery. It was coined by former administrator Craig Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The metric is, unofficially, used by FEMA to inform disaster response.

If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That’s really bad…

— Craig Fugate, Former Head of FEMA

The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:

  • GREEN: full menu – Restaurant has power and damage is limited or no damage at all.
  • YELLOW: limited menu – No power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed – Indicates severe damage or severe flooding.

I “borrowed” this information from the information on Wikipedia.

Former FEMA director Craig Fugate coined the term after the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri.

The tornado devastated Joplin causing $2.8 billion worth of damage, killing 158 people and injuring 1,150 others.

Waffle House, however, remained open.

Both locations.

Waffle House has a limited menu prepared for times of food shortages and power outages.

It also assembles “Waffle House Jump Teams” who can quickly reopen the restaurant after a disaster as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Waffle House Index is thus a surprisingly useful indicator of how well a community is faring after a severe storm.



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