This seems lifted from The Onion but it's not. According to the WSJ, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate uses a 'Waffle House Index' to help him determine how destructive a hurricane has been to an area. If a Waffle House is closed, you're probably screwed.
Specifically, in Fugate's interpretation:
Green means the restaurant is serving a full menu, a signal that damage in an area is limited and the lights are on. Yellow means a limited menu, indicating power from a generator, at best, and low food supplies. Red means the restaurant is closed, a sign of severe damage in the area or unsafe conditions.
This is real life, people! If the Waffle House is closed get the hell out of Dodge. Or as Fugate puts it, "If you get there and the Waffle House is closed? That's really bad. That's where you go to work." (FEMA has to save lives and stuff). In fact, the Waffle House has a "hurricane playbook" that details how to re-open a restaurant and what to serve given the equipment they have.
The Waffle House prides itself on being able to stay open through any sort of natural disaster. Even after a Waffle House lost power durring Hurricane Irene, the restaurant kept serving food until "it got too dark for the grill cook to see when the food was cooked". That Waffle House re-opened the next morning with no power, just a gas grill to boil water for coffee and cook food for patrons. The Waffle House cares, I love it. [WSJ via Kottke, Image Credit: Western Arab]
You can keep up with Casey Chan, the author of this post, on Twitter or Facebook.