Behind the Forecast: Waffles and Weather - Disaster preparedness at its best

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Science Behind the Forecast: Waffle House and severe weather

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - For a meteorologist like myself, it’s not all about forecasting for dangerous weather; there’s also dealing with the aftermath of those storms. That’s where the Waffle House Index comes in.

It’s not a measure of how quickly waffles should be smothered in syrup or a graph showing the best bacon to egg ratio. It’s actually an index used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to gauge how prepared a business is for a disaster and how quickly a community can bounce back afterwards. It was officially coined by former FEMA director Craig Fugate after an EF 5 tornado struck Joplin, Missouri causing billions of dollars in damage, killing more than 100 people and injuring more than 1,000. Despite the damage, two Waffle Houses in the city remained open.

The index is green when a Waffle House is open and offering a full menu, yellow if it is open and serving from a restricted menu and red if the restaurant is closed. Every Waffle House restaurant is slated to be open 24 hours, 365 days a year; that is unless a disaster strikes.


FEMA uses Waffle House, The Home Depot and Walmart as benchmarks in disaster preparedness. According to FEMA, these businesses have taken the appropriate steps to prepare for a disaster and continue to operate in and provide for their communities. FEMA notes that: “Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it’s rare for the index to hit red.”

The Index breaks down how a community is dealing with a disaster and how quickly afterward businesses will reopen and stay open. FEMA states that the faster businesses can reopen, the sooner economies will be up and rolling, thus signaling a stronger recovery for the area.

Waffle House is so dedicated to storm preparedness that they activate their Storm Center to support stores impacted by strong storms and other disasters. The company even sends senior management to areas to oversee operations. “Jump teams” are sent to help run restaurants so local managers and supervisors can focus on helping their own families, friends and employees through tough times, according to TODAY.

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