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News of the Day – What do Waffle Houses Have to Do with Risk Management?


What do Waffle Houses have to do with risk and disaster management?

As anyone who has heard Administrator Fugate speak once or twice knows, more than you might think. During his days as the head of Florida’s Department of Emergency Management, Craig 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.

If this comparison seems odd at first, think again.

Yesterday, EHS Today, a magazine for environment, health and safety leaders, explained that major companies such as The Home Depot, Walmart, and Waffle House serve as role models in disaster preparedness. They’ve taken necessary steps to prepare. 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. As the article explains, the Waffle House test is:

If a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it’s rare for the index to hit red.

As Craig 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.

EHS Today’s article serves as a good reminder that businesses should get ready. Up to 40 percent of businesses affected by a natural or man-made disaster never reopen, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Keep your business out of this statistic. As we’ve said before, learn about the resources available to help your company prepare for a disaster – and stay in business.

Last Updated: 
06/18/2012 - 18:06


Great analogy.

What a way to look at it.

Great way of looking at it but remember it is slightly skewed. Responders need somewhere to eat and they will have supplies and power before others in the same area.

I work for Waffle House, ive always knew they are awesome company during power outages, and disaters. Im from a neighborhood, that had wind and hail damage severly. So we were sent teams to help us through this sad, hard time, The company treated the employees great They had not only generators, to keep the units functional.But had a tankard set up to gas up all of our cars. Im proud to b part of awesome company.

The responders have nothing to do with waffle house. i work in alabama at waffle house and we stayed open not for the business and not for the responders but because of heart. we served wave after wave of scared, tired hungry, lost people for days with no power in the community and no phone. we got generators and all of us went beyond our limits of exhaustion to serve our nieghbors, friends, family, who had no power, no gas available, no heat, and all food spoiled in freezers. there was no political agenda, and no business agenda. we were proud to serve any way we could, and it was an incredible experience.Dont be so jaded as to think the responders had anything to do with my coming to work thru downed power lines, trees and devestation. I did it for the community who needed us to be open as a safe haven.

Not only is this a funny, but insightful analogy! It has held true! I have personally heard the the story that Mr. Fugate uses and when he was called in to the Mississippi coast and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina...the Waffle Houses were gone and he knew that this was a bigger disaster than anyone had thought. Boy was he right!

after hurricane Irene the Waffle house opened on that Sunday in tarboro NC with high price meal. 2 eggs 2 pieces bacon 1 toast for $6.55 plus tax Isthis high price to you it is to me.

This is fascinating. I was unaware of Waffle House's emergency plans, or the role private businesses play in being used to determine economic and personal recovery.

A government agency responsible for managing our response to emergencies and natural disasters...actually bases decisions on how well the local Waffle House is fairing? We are proud of this? This isn't's absurd.

Bravo to Craig Fugate (FEMA) for making a reference that the public can identify with and one that will probably stay with them during times of an emergency, unlike the Homeland Security color-coded threat level, Advisory System, that no one could remember. It is similar to the CDC's Zombie Preparedness, // , which had 50,000 hits in days vs. their usual 3000. Humor is always the best way to teach and reach an audience. <br /><br />And bravo to the Waffle House for not only taking care of their employees, but their communities as well. It is nice to hear that some employers go beyond the call of duty and treat everyone like family.

Waffle House is an integral part of the South and every community in which they do business. Having worked for years at their corporate hdqtrs in Norcross I know this theme is the main point of their mission statement. Granted, they have been very profitable "looking out for the cash customer" all these almost 60 years but they relish their role of providing a local 'safe haven and a friendly smile' in every community and on every street corner where they are established. Responding to disasters is top priority and usually very expensive for the company but they also realize their very important role in being there for 1st responders, power company personnel, etc. as a community struggles to return. The company's top executives, and I mean the very top including the founder's son, respond personnally to every disaster, both showing up onsite with sleeves rolled up ready to work, to all-night long planning and response centers at corporate hq. They move heavens and earth to support their associates (see anonymous July 8 9:59 pm above) and their customers and their heritage when disaster strikes. They will stay open even when cooking by candlelight and Coleman stove, just to 'be there' with a friendly 'hello' and a smile - a safe haven - in the midst of disaster.

Kudos to waffle house and other companies for having a good disaster plan in place. This made me laugh when i found a reference to it on wikipedias waffle house page (at end of page). Humor is an effective way of dealing with some horrible things - done the right way its a defense mechanism and theres nothing wrong with it. But I posted the link on my facebook page so more people would see it. So the analogy worked to get the message out to me and my friends. Thats effective long-term advertising for preparedness on the part of Mr. Fugate.

We do not have Waffle House in New England. Should we have a Yankee Candle index?

Many years ago 2005 when Florida got hit w Four storms many many of Kissimmee businesses were devastated and never reopened...

If that's what you took from the article then you need to give if a careful, and objective, re-reading.

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