Waffle House Index

The Waffle House Index is an informal metric named after the Waffle House restaurant chain to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery.[1][2][better source needed][3] It was coined by former administrator Craig Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).[4] The metric is, unofficially,[1][5] used by FEMA to inform disaster response.[6][7]

The remains of a Waffle House in Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina


The index is based on Waffle House's reputation for having good disaster preparedness and staying open during extreme weather or reopening quickly afterwards.

If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad...[8]

— Craig Fugate, Former Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency


The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:[8][9][10]

  • GREEN: full menu – Restaurant has power and damage is limited or no damage at all.
  • YELLOW: limited menu – No power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed – Indicates severe damage or severe flooding.


The term was coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in May 2011, following the 2011 Joplin tornado, during which the two Waffle House restaurants in Joplin remained open.[4][11][12]

The measure is based on the reputation of the restaurant chain Waffle House for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornados or hurricanes. The chain's disaster preparedness measures include assembling and training "Waffle House jump teams" to facilitate fast reopening after disasters.[8] Waffle House, along with other chains (such as Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe's) which do a significant proportion of their business in the southern US where there is a frequent risk of hurricanes, have good risk management and disaster preparedness. Because of this, and the fact that a cut-down menu is prepared for times when there is no power or limited supplies, the Waffle House Index rarely reaches the red level.[8][4]

The "Waffle House Index" sits alongside more formal measures of wind, rainfall, and other weather information, such as the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, which are used to indicate the intensity of a storm.[8]

Dan Stoneking, FEMA director of external affairs, wrote in a FEMA blog post:[13][14]

As Craig [Fugate] often says, the Waffle House test doesn’t just tell us how quickly a business might rebound – it also tells us how the larger community is faring. The sooner restaurants, grocery and corner stores, or banks can re-open, the sooner local economies will start generating revenue again – signaling a stronger recovery for that community. The success of the private sector in preparing for and weathering disasters is essential to a community’s ability to recover in the long run.

— Dan Stoneking, FEMA News of the Day – What do Waffle Houses Have to Do with Risk Management?

A FOIA request response in 2017 included emails saying that the Waffle House Index was a personal project of Craig Fugate's, denying a connection between the Waffle House Index and FEMA's National Business Emergency Operations Center.[15]

"When a Hurricane Strikes, Weather the Storm With Waffles" video news report from Voice of America

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Rossman, Sean (September 7, 2017). "How FEMA uses Waffle Houses in disasters". USA Today. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  2. ^ McKenna, Maryn (December 6, 2016). "If Waffle House Is Closed, It's Time To Panic". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  3. ^ Zraick, Karen; Caron, Christina (September 13, 2018). "Landfall, Storm Surge and the Waffle House Index: Hurricane Terms and What They Mean". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Walter, Laura (July 6, 2011). "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today.
  5. ^ Mettler, Katie (October 7, 2016). "The 'Waffle House index': Hurricane Matthew is so scary even the always-open eatery is evacuating". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  6. ^ McKnight, Brent; Linnenluecke, Martina K. (2016). "How Firm Responses to Natural Disasters Strengthen Community Resilience: A Stakeholder-Based Perspective". Organization & Environment. 29 (3): 290–307. ISSN 1086-0266 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ Wolff-Mann, Ethan (October 7, 2016). "Here's what FEMA told us about the Waffle House Index". Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e (subscription required)Bauerlein, Valerie (September 1, 2011). "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". The Wall Street Journal.
  9. ^ Fugate, Craig (May 28, 2016). "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!". National Public Radio.
  10. ^ Smith, K. Annabelle (August 30, 2012). "How Waffle House Uses Twitter to Help Recovery Efforts". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved October 31, 2021.
  11. ^ "What the Waffle House Can Teach About Managing Supply Chain Risk". Insurance Journal. July 19, 2011.
  12. ^ Brown, JPat (September 1, 2017). "FEMA really does have a 'Waffle House Index' for hurricanes – and they're not too happy about it". MuckRock. Retrieved October 30, 2019. Term first coined by FEMA Administrator Fugate in May, 2011, following Joplin tornado – two Waffle House restaurants remained open after EF5 tornado struck the city on May 22. Key quote: "If you get there and the Waffle House is closed?" FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate has said. "That's really bad. That's where you go to work."
  13. ^ "News of the Day – What do Waffle Houses Have to Do with Risk Management?". FEMA.gov. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  14. ^ Judkis, Maura (September 12, 2018). "Hurricane Florence is a serious threat – just ask the Waffle House storm center". Washington Post. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Brown, JPat (September 1, 2017). "FEMA really does have a 'Waffle House Index' for hurricanes – and they're not too happy about it". MuckRock. Retrieved October 30, 2019. I wouldn't connect the Waffle House to the NBEOC. The Waffle House is Craig's thing.

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