Which retailers are best at preparing for major disasters? According to some experts, big-box chains like Home Depot and Lowe’s earn high marks for responding rapidly to blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes. Then there’s Waffle House, which FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate cites as being one of the indicators he uses to determine whether a community has recovered from a disaster: If the restaurant is open and serving a full menu, things are okay.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out that Home Depot is well-prepared for most major disasters:
Home Depot has an extensive disaster response team to handle hurricanes, fires, floods, tornadoes and blizzards.
The team includes information technology, merchandising, human resources, security and supply chain executives. The company receives early alerts on bad weather via email. In an emergency situation, the team assembles in a command center at headquarters. In the event of a hurricane, the goal is to be the last outlet to close and the first to open.
Home Depot moves fast: A week after its store in Joplin, Mo., was destroyed by a massive tornado, the company set up a functioning lumber yard.
If you want to grab a quick bite after the storm, FEMA administrator Fugate’s pick is apparently Waffle House. Furgate’s “Waffle House test,” according to the AJC: “If a Waffle House is open after a hurricane, you can assume the water and power are still on. If it’s closed, conditions are still pretty bad.”
After the Atlanta ice storms earlier this year, Waffle House asked corporate employees with four-wheel drive vehicles to grab food from a warehouse in Norcross to supply local restaurants.
The company tries to flood the zone with manpower after a storm to give its local employees a rest. After the Alabama tornadoes, people from metro Atlanta, Mississippi and Tennessee went to Tuscaloosa. And after Hurricane Katrina, teams came to the Gulf Coast from Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas to spell the local workers.
Of course, being disaster-ready has its benefits for a chain like Waffle House. “After the storm, since we are one of the few places open, we’re really busy,” vice president Pat Warner told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.