Emergency Responders Use Waffle House Restaurants to Gauge Damage

Quantitatively measuring the damage done from a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake can be a tricky task. First responders need some way to determine where funds need to be diverted and more engineering capabilities need to be focused during a rebuilding effort. One way that disaster agencies in the US measure this damage, is by looking at the state of local waffle houses.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, uses an index of Waffle House states to determine how much work needs to be done in an area of damage.

The waffle house index has three levels:

Green: full menu available, damage is limited, and power is on

Yellow: limited menu, power is off or from a generator and food supplies are low

Red: The waffle house is closed.

The Waffle House chain is notorious for always being open, so investigators take note when local restaurants are closed – that’s when the area needs heavy repair work.

Image Source: Daniel Oines/Flickr

This Waffle House Index isn’t a joke either. It may not be the most concrete measurement method, but combined with formal measures of wind, rain, and satellite imagery, it helps emergency responders understand where efforts need to be focused. Using all of these measurements combined, both concrete and anecdotal, allow management of emergency response to best be coordinated where it is needed in times of disaster.

Sometimes, engineering and planning requires data that is a little less concrete and a lot more covered in syrup.

Trevor is a civil engineer (B.S.) by trade and an accomplished writer with a passion for inspiring everyone with new and exciting technologies. He is also a published children’s book author and the producer for the YouTube channel Concerning Reality.


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