New FEMA Head's Little Trick: Counting Waffle Houses

Craig Fugate brings years of know-how to disaster recovery

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 4, 2012 4:16 PM CST

(Newser) – 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.

President Barack Obama and FEMA administrator Craig Fugate walk from the White House to Marine One, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Washington.
President Barack Obama and FEMA administrator Craig Fugate walk from the White House to Marine One, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate gestures during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug., 29, 2011.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate gestures during the daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug., 29, 2011.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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