NORCROSS, GA. - The Waffle House storm team left company headquarters in Norcross early Friday to roll to restaurants impacted by Tropical Storm Hermine in South Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
By noon, Waffle House had 14 restaurants without power. It was able to open two stores that had to close in the morning.
"If we have running water and gas, we can stay open and cook even when the power goes out," said Pat Warner, Vice President of Culture at Waffle House. "We're there 24/7 the rest of the year, so we want to be there when a storm goes through. We owe it to our customers and associates."
Warner said company officials have already been in touch with FEMA to help monitor the "Waffle House Index."
That's a term coined by FEMA Director Craig Fugate when he led emergency operations in Florida.
"If a Waffle House restaurant is open or on generator, emergency workers can keep moving," explained Warner. "If it's closed, they need to stop and start working."
Warner said the company began developing its emergency response plan in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Charleston, South Carolina.
"Katrina was the biggest test," Warner said. "We had to shut down 107 restaurants because of evacuations. We lost 7 restaurants."
Waffle House now has a mobile command center to help restore communications between headquarters and restaurants impacted by a storm like Hermine.
Warner said power is the main issue with this storm. The company's first priority is getting generators to restaurants that lost power.
"Staying open helps everyone get back that sense of normalcy," he added.
(© 2016 WXIA)