FEMA uses Waffle House as model to assess tornado tragedy

FEMA says companies like Waffle House are role models during disasters like the tornado that hit Oklahoma. They prepare thoroughly beforehand and spring back afterward.

In the midst of tragedies like the tornado that killed 24 people in Moore, Okla., this week, we turn to things we know; familiar, comforting things.

Things like waffles.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency uses Waffle House operations as an unofficial measure of the severity of such disasters. The chain restaurants became unlikely heroes in the aftermath of the tornado that killed 10 children and leveled an elementary school.


"(FEMA head) Craig (Fugate) began to use a simple test to determine how quickly a community might be able to get up and running again after a disaster: The Waffle House test," FEMA said in its blog.

The test is simple. The Guardian reports it has three levels: Green means the local Waffle House is up and running with a full menu. Yellow means the restaurant is using an emergency generator and limited menu. Red means Waffle House is badly damaged or completely destroyed.

Right now, Moore and its one Waffle House are at yellow.

The scale sounds silly, but there’s sound reasoning behind it. FEMA said companies like Waffle House are role models during a natural disaster. They prepare thoroughly beforehand and spring back quickly afterward.

"These companies have good risk management plans to ensure that their stores continue to operate when a disaster strikes, and also provide basic supplies to people in their community," FEMA said in the blog.

Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer wrote on FEMA's website that "being prepared for the unexpected is as big a part of our job as is cooking hashbrowns, waffles and eggs."

He said the company stages supplies and additional manpower at restaurants when it knows a major storm could hit.

"You need to plan ahead and then when the emergency occurs, be ready to be flexible and address the most important issues in front of you," Ehmer wrote. "And over time, it simply becomes part of your company’s or home’s culture."

More tornado coverage from MSN

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