It may seem strange on the surface, but this is actually a surprisingly good idea from the federal government:
Waffle House serves hungry customers bacon, eggs and hash browns, but when disaster strikes, the iconic chain serves up valuable intel to the government.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has developed an unofficial, color-coded “Waffle House Index” to help make assessments before sending response teams to areas hit by such natural disasters as tornadoes, floods or hurricanes.
And it’s as simple as making a phone call:
After a disaster, officials call a restaurant in the affected area, and ask what’s on the menu. If the restaurant is serving everything, it means there is water and electricity and that the index is green. If the menu has been scaled back, the index is yellow, which means there’s water but no power.
In the rare event a Waffle House is completely shut down, the index is red and that usually means there’s big trouble.
Heritage explains why it works:
While this might strike you as odd at first, such a non-traditional approach makes a lot of sense. Waffle House is a company that seeks to make money, and the amount of money it makes depends on serving customers. If a Waffle House is closed or has only a few menu items available, then it won’t make much money. This profit motive means that Waffle House will do everything it can to remain open or get open as soon as possible after a natural disaster.
Too bad there’s no Waffle House restaurants in my area. Guess FEMA would have to call IHOP if there was a disaster here.
Joking aside, this is a very good common-sense approach to finding out how things are in various areas quickly. Businesses are interested in getting back to business as usual as quickly as they can, so calling around to local businesses is pretty much a no-brainer.
Kudos to FEMA for doing things the common-sense way.