Dr. Helen

The Waffle House Index

It seems that Waffle House is teaching FEMA a thing or two about disasters (thanks for the link Brad):

Waffle House is so well known for its resiliency that the US government’s disaster relief organization, FEMA, uses the chain as a sensor network to make post-disaster damage assessments. After disasters, like the recent devastating tornado in Oklahoma, FEMA officials will use the so-called “Waffle House Index,” calling every Waffle House location in the area to gather two pieces of data: Are they open? Are they serving a limited menu? Based on this information, they color-code each diner: red for closed, yellow for open but with a limited menu, and green for open. By mapping the data, responders can quickly establish the location and extent of the damage.

We could learn a thing or two from Waffle House. First, resiliency requires adaptation, and adaption requires data. Waffle Houses are not stocked for all disasters, rather the company carefully tracks weather and other information so when a disaster is approaching they have the situational awareness to pre-position supplies close to the danger zone. They are a real-world example of resiliency through data.