Who knew the Southern cultural icon was being used as a barometer for how well an area will recover from a hurricane, tornado or other hazard?
According to USA Today, the federal government uses Waffle Houses to gauge the toll a natural disaster might take on a local area. This system was a result of 2004’s hurricanes when Craig Fugate – an administrator under Barack Obama – was Florida’s emergency management director.
“They are open most of the time. And that was the index,” he described during a 2016 episode of NPR’s comedy podcast Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me. “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,” he said. “If they’re green, we’re good, keep going. You haven’t found the bad stuff yet.”
A 2011 FEMA blog post further expounded on how the system works: “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.”
The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas saw many Waffle Houses open days after its ravage.
— Waffle House News (@WaffleHouseNews) September 1, 2017