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

The Waffle House Index is an informal metric used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery.[1]

"If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's when you go to work."[2]



The index has three levels, based on the extent of operations and service at the restaurant following a storm:[2][3]

  • GREEN: full menu - restaurant has power and damage is limited.
  • YELLOW: limited menu - no power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed - indicating severe damage.


The term was coined by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in May 2011, following the 2011 Joplin tornado; when the two Waffle House restaurants in the city remained open.[4][5]

The measure is based on the reputation of the Waffle House restaurant chain for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornadoes or hurricanes. 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 a cut-down menu prepared for times when there is no power or limited supplies, the Waffle House Index rarely reaches the red level.[4][2]

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.[2]


On Thursday October 6, 2016, the index reached red when all Waffle House restaurants on Florida's I-95 between Titusville and Fort Pierce were closed. This index change was caused by Hurricane Matthew ravaging Caribbean islands and the east coast of the United States.[6]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ McKenna, Maryn (6 December 2016). "If Waffle House Is Closed, It’s Time To Panic". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d "How to Measure a Storm's Fury One Breakfast at a Time". Wall Street Journal. September 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!: Craig Fugate". National Public Radio. May 28, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "What Do Waffles Have to Do with Risk Management?". EHS Today. July 6, 2011. 
  5. ^ "What the Waffle House Can Teach About Managing Supply Chain Risk". Insurance Journal. July 19, 2011. 
  6. ^ Helsel, Phil (6 October 2016). "Waffle Houses Close in Florida, in Bad 'Index' Omen". NBC News (Waffle House Index reaches red). Retrieved 7 October 2016. 

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