SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - When a community has been hit by a hurricane or other disaster, where do you look for a sign that everything is going to be okay? Perhaps it's a battered American flag still flying high? Or a caravan of power trucks coming into town? You most likely didn't think of a Waffle House serving up scattered and smothered hashbrowns. But FEMA does.
It turns out FEMA uses the iconic restaurants to determine how quickly a community is recovering from a disaster.
FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate started using the "Waffle House Index" in May 2011 when he was in charge of Florida's emergency response. Here's how it works: Because the restaurants are open 24 hours, seven days a week, rain or shine, the thinking is that they're a good indicator of how a storm impacted the surrounding area.
If Waffle House is open and serving full meals, FEMA knows things are going well and the index is green.
If the diner is only serving a limited menu, it tells FEMA there may be supply or power issues in an area. That equals a yellow on the index.
But if a Waffle House is closed, FEMA knows it's bad, and the index turns red.
Businesses like Waffle House, Home Depot and Walmart have plans in place to open up quickly after being battered by storms. Many South Mississippians will remember Waffle Houses were some of the first restaurants to reopen after Hurricane Katrina.
So, do you agree with FEMA? Is Waffle House a good indicator for measuring the severity of a disaster? You can weigh in on the debate on our WLOX Facebook page: http://bit.ly/femawaffle