(RNN) - Hurricane Michael is so bad (a Category 4 storm with sustained 150 mph winds), Waffle House closed 21 restaurants in storm’s path for the foreseeable future.
“We close the restaurants when there is a mandatory evacuation or when conditions determine that it is not safe,” Pat Warner, Waffle House’s director of public relations and external affairs, said in an email.
One Waffle House was badly damaged when a pole fell onto it in Panama City, FL, on Wednesday.
FEMA created a Waffle House index back in 2011 when then-administrator Craig Fugate noticed that Waffle Houses stayed open with limited menus depending on how severely a community was hit by a natural disaster.
Fugate recognized that Waffle House is extremely prepared for emergencies. In fact, the company has special crew, - the Waffle House Storm Center - a team that monitors storms and will dispatch help to restaurants in the path of a hurricane.
The FEMA Waffle House index is color-coded red, yellow and green - like a stoplight.
If the Waffle House Index is green, all systems are normal and the community is recovering well.
A yellow on the index means Waffle House is serving a limited menu, and the community may be experiencing power or supply issues.
When Waffle House closes restaurants, the index is at a red level. With how severe Hurricane Michael is, Waffle House closed numerous stores along the Gulf Coast based on evacuation orders.
Warner said the company has people and resources staged outside of the “strike zone” so the company can assess the damage and open restaurants “when it is safe to do so.”
After Hurricane Florence last month, CEO Walt Ehmer - carrying the Waffle House Storm Playbook - went to Wilmington, NC, to help serve those who needed some hash browns smothered and covered.