Waffle House responds to disaster areas with Incident Management Teams

Waffle House “Jump Teams” help keep their restaurants open during local emergencies.

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I learned in 1992 during our Incident Management Team’s response to South Florida after Hurricane Andrew that the local National Park Service personnel who would normally be rescuers, had become victims and needed the assistance from outside the area.

Waffle House calls them “Jump Teams” but when an area is hit by a hurricane or other disaster they respond from outside the region to keep their local restaurants up and running as much as possible. The concept is not unlike land management agencies sending teams and crews across the country to help the locals deal with a wildfire or other emergency.

Waffle House is known in hurricane-prone areas for being among the last to close and the first to open in area where residents are forced to evacuate. New employees receive training about how to manage the restaurants during difficult circumstances.

Below are excerpts from a Yahoo article published August 25 as the effects of Hurricane Harvey were unfolding on the Texas coast:

A Waffle House jump team consists of a small team of restaurant operators from outside the hurricane zone. These employees swoop in at the first possible moment after a storm to restore service and get things open. Typically after a storm, demand for food is high and functioning restaurants are in low supply, and things get extremely busy.

“There’s a jump team outside of Nashville ready to go on Sunday. Jump teams are [also] ready in Louisiana,” said Warner. “Then we can deploy from the main office some teams that may or may not go depending on severity.”

One of the reasons why these jump teams are the key to the chain’s success is because employees may not be able to work if they’re dealing with their own hurricane damage.

“It does help to bring operators from outside so it relieves [local employees] so they can focus on family,,” said Warner. “They don’t have to worry about their restaurant at the same time.”


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.