FEMA uses 'Waffle House index' to take stock of Oklahoma tornado disaster -
When the main US federal emergency agency arrives at the scene of a disaster-hit area, one of the first places it turns to is the local Waffle House – and not just for its officials to grab a quick bite.
Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came up with the idea of the "Waffle House index" as an informal way of measuring the impact of a disaster. The chain, which has a large number of branches in tornado-prone areas, has a robust emergency management plan.
The index has three levels. If the local Waffle House is up and running, serving a full menu, a disaster is classed as green. If it is running with an emergency generator and serving only a limited menu, it is a yellow. If it is closed, badly damaged or totally destroyed, as during hurricane Katrina, it is a red.
There is only one Waffle House in Moore, the suburb worst hit by the tornadoes. The restaurant, located at 316 SW 19th Street and which normally offers a southern-tinged menu that includes grits, hash browns, and sausage and egg biscuits as well as hamburgers, was closed on Tuesday.
But the Moore tornado was classed as a yellow on the Waffle House index because managers were hoping to get it up and running soon. "It is a yellow because we are hoping to get a generator," said Kelly Thrasher, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based restaurant chain. "Once we have the generator, we will be able to serve a limited menu, maybe a full one."
She said the branch had survived the storm intact. "There is no damage to the building. Power is out and there is no gas or water but we do not have any physical damage. We are trying to get it open so we can serve first responders and the community," she said.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday issued a disaster declaration for Oklahoma and promised to provide the state with all the federal support it needs. Fugate has been despatched to the state.
Fema was heavily criticised for its slowness to respond to Katrina in 2005, a disaster that damaged the reputation of George W Bush as much as the 2003 Iraq invasion. But it received praise for the help it provided last year after hurricane Sandy. It has been the target of criticism by conservatives across the US as an example of an unnecessary federal agency, with calls for its abolition, though such carping is often dropped when the critics' home states are victims of catastrophe.
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