Obama administration officials aren't exactly known for wearing cowboy boots and talking about Waffle Houses. But Craig Fugate, current head of FEMA, brings a down-to-earth attitude to the post he's held since 2009, the New York Times reports. Supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, Fugate brings a philosophy unusual for FEMA: preparing and stocking up for disasters ahead of time. "Because we always talk about FEMA so much,” he says, “I think the general public assumes we are part of the [initial] response team."
FEMA is actually designed to provide financial aid, search-and-rescue, and water removal—but Fugate likes positioning supplies before disaster strikes, to avoid the boondoggles that dogged Hurricane Katrina relief. No doubt Fugate learned real-world lessons as a volunteer fireman and paramedic, and head of Florida emergency management, before taking over FEMA. As for the Waffle Houses, he likes gauging the health of a post-disaster economy by how many are open. The northeast doesn't have many, however, so he's assessing Superstorm Sandy recovery by two new indicators: Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.