If you want to know how severe a natural disaster will be, consider the “Waffle House Index.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency will sometimes categorize a storm by looking at how long it took the restaurant chain to get its restaurants up and running. As Hurricane Matthew batters the East Coast, Pinar Keskinocak and Julie Swann, co-directors of Georgia Tech's Center for Health & Humanitarian Systems (CHHS), explain the disaster preparedness lessons we can learn from the Waffle House.
Waffle House is a business, but we could all learn something from how they plan for and prepare for disasters in advance. The word "plan" is key, as it is impossible to respond to a disaster if you have not been preparing well in advance. They have suppliers or contracts in place for supplies, including money, food, fuel and repair equipment. There is a master list of emergency contacts and a list of assigned roles and responsibilities for everyone in the Waffle House family. They pay close attention to weather forecasts and to advisories from government agencies. They prepare their buildings in advance and make plans for potential repairs afterwards. They coordinate within their own network of restaurants, while also working with others.
We could also learn a lesson about helping out our neighbors and our communities. Waffle House spends a lot of time, money and talent preparing for disasters and it is not because there is a large profit in it. We should look around and see what we can do to help our broader community. Is there a family you know from Florida that needs a place to stay? Can you afford to send some money to support the disaster response? Can you bring attention to disaster victims in Haiti, Cuba or the Bahamas to make sure they are not forgotten as the storm hits the coast of the United States?
Many organizations point out that a dollar invested in planning and preparedness saves seven times that in disaster response. Make sure your household is prepared, and that includes having cash, water, food and power sources on hand. Once you're prepared, watch the weather reports and follow notificatons from local officials.
For more information, or to schedule an interview, please contact: