It's a Little Piece of Normal

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Over the years there have been several news articles to come out about a little something called the “Waffle House Index.” This index is pretty ingenious—it relies on the open or closed status of the well-known diner chain in disaster-affected areas.

The index itself isn’t just about whether or not you can get pralines on your waffles or if you can get waffles at all, but rather about the damage in a neighborhood.

If a Waffle House can serve a full menu, they’ve likely got power (or are running on a generator). A limited menu means an area may not have running water or electricity, but there’s gas for the stove to make bacon, eggs, and coffee: exactly what hungry, weary people need.

It’s more than just a Waffle House though.

Businesses in communities are often some of the biggest drivers of recovery. If stores can open, people can go back to work. If people can go back to work, they can return to at least one piece of a normal life—and that little piece of normalcy can make a big difference.

If a store like a Home Depot or a Lowe’s or your local hardware store can open, that means people can get the supplies they need in order to rebuild, to clean up the muck and progress along the path to recovery.

For small towns, places like coffee shops and local restaurants are often the local hubs of activity. Just a cup of coffee, a bite to eat, or the chance to catch up with a neighbor can mean a lot to someone who may have lost everything.

The private sector knows and understands this. That’s why, after disasters like Harvey and Irma strike, companies work to offer as much support as they can.

All kinds of companies have come to the aid of communities impacted by the recent storms and in a variety of ways. Some companies, like Target and Lowe’s have donated money to trusted organizations while others, like Clorox and Walmart have provided much-needed supplies to hard-hit areas.

Many of the supplies needed wouldn’t be able to get there without the help of private sector partners like FedEx which is working with several non-profits to help provide transportation support.

Notably, grocery stores are often the first place people look to go when starting their recovery; they can provide much needed supplies like batteries, water, and food.

One story that is particularly uplifting is the exchange between chains Publix (from Florida) and H-E-B (from Texas) in that they have provided mutual support—Publix helped raise money for the Red Cross after Harvey and H-E-B sent supplies to Florida after Irma.

All of this support is important, particularly as businesses strive to open after disasters.

One thing that shouldn’t be discounted is the support of sports teams, also part of the private sector—and important partners for us.

Players, organizations, and owners from several leagues and teams, from several states and cities both inside and outside the affected areas—have reached out and offered support to impacted communities by having fans bring needed supplies to games in exchange for ticket vouchers to raising money for charities in unique ways—via home-runs and social media campaigns. The power of a passionate fan base has rarely been more visible.

While fundraising may work for some, other teams—whether professional like the Florida Panthers or collegiate, like the Michigan State Spartans football team have taken to volunteering to help in their off-time.

The assistance we’ve seen from people all over the private sector, as well as all over the world, has been astonishing to say the least. People have opened their homes and their hearts to their fellow Americans in ways that are nothing short of absolutely inspiring. And of course, this is merely a snapshot of just some of the outstanding work that’s being done to help hurricane survivors across the southern parts of the country. More work is still being done and the outpouring of support continues.

We want to continue to encourage you to keep giving. With Irma’s destruction having been hot on the heels of Harvey, and Maria yet to make its way through the Caribbean, it’s important for everyone to be involved.

If any (or all) of the above actions have inspired you to help, there are options for you to get involved as well.

If you’re looking to donate, monetary donations to trusted organizations are the recommended route to take. Cash donations allow groups flexibility to get the supplies survivors and communities need when they’re needed.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster offer a list of nearly 60 organizations to choose from—depending on what kinds of missions you support. From veterans continuing their service with Team Rubicon, to trained comfort dogs of Hope Animal Assisted Crisis Response, and a variety of faith-based groups, there is an organization for everyone to love.

If you’re looking more for the getting-your-hands-dirty route, there are also options to volunteer with any of the organizations mentioned earlier—or even your own local food bank or pantry if you can’t travel. Many local groups have been putting together fundraisers or drives to help organizations making a difference in disaster-affected communities and working with the chapters on the ground to get exactly what is needed to the people in need. There are opportunities out there for everyone.

The little things make differences now more than ever, as people look to put their lives back together after two separate catastrophic hurricanes. It’s more than just a cup of coffee, it’s more than just a Waffle House. It’s a little piece of normal—which can make all the difference.




Disclaimer: FEMA does not endorse any single private sector company, product, or sports team and the above are a non-exhaustive list of private sector partners mentioned solely for informational and educational purposes.

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