In Wake of Irma, FEMA May Turn to the Waffle House Index

'If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2017 6:20 PM CDT
Customers walk into a Waffle House during a 2015 snow storm in Alabama.   (AP Photo/, Sarah Cole)

(Newser) – Want to know how a community is weathering a disaster? Look no further than Waffle House. The Southern diner chain is at the heart of an informal government test—the Waffle House Index—to find out how municipalities are dealing with hurricanes, tornadoes, and more. "The Waffle House test just doesn't tell us how quickly a business might rebound—it also tells how the larger community is faring," USA Today quotes a 2011 FEMA blog post as saying.

The Waffle House Index appears to have started with former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, who brought it up with the press multiple times during the Obama administration, the Next Web reports. Fugate explained the test to NPR last year: "They are open most of the time ... 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. If they're green, we're good." Approximately 250 Waffle Houses are expected to be impacted by Hurricane Irma. In comparison, Hurricane Harvey only affected 40 restaurant locations. (Read more Waffle House stories.)

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