How Waffle House helps FEMA gauge the severity of storms

Posted at 1:39 PM, Sep 03, 2019

What do waffles have to do with severe weather safety?

Everything apparently.

Believe it or not, FEMA depends on Waffle House to gauge just how dangerous conditions are during hurricanes.

It's called the “Waffle House index.”

It has three levels:

  • If you see a Waffle House that's open and has a full menu, the area is in the clear.
  • If it has a limited menu, people should probably start making safety plans. That means the restaurant either has no power or is running on a generator.
  • And if it's closed, there's likely severe flooding or damage in the area and people should get to safety. Waffle House locations rarely close, so it has to be a really extreme case of severe weather.

“We may have to shut some restaurants down,” says Pat Warner, the director of public relations and external affairs for Waffle House. “That's a little tough for us because all our restaurants are 24/7. We don't know how to turn things off so we really have to shut down a restaurant in an orderly fashion.”

Waffle House has a storm center outside of Atlanta. That's where the company tracks the storm and sends out information to its restaurants.

But it also has people on the ground looking at conditions. Those people are the ones who have a more accurate view of what's happening and help decide when restaurants should close.

Waffle House is prepared with a jump team that actually takes over for regular staff during a storm. This helps restaurants to continue operating while employees go home and stay safe with their families.