FEMA watching the 'Waffle House Index' as Dorian approaches

The lights at Waffle House are always on, but when a storm rolls in and restaurants have to close down, Waffle House serves recipes from their "Storm Playbook."

"The goal is to get in right behind the storm and get the restaurants back open, so the community has a place to eat," said Waffle House's Pat Warner.

The Waffle House storm team works around the clock coordinating thousands of trucks and team members. For Dorian, they're staging trucks in Jacksonville until it's safe to enter the storm zone.

"We'll have the power, the food, the generators, the people,  the fuel to get the restaurants back open. That way we're not a burden to the community, we're helping the community," said Warner."

After the storm hits, Waffle House will check in on each of its stores through their security cameras. That way they can see if the store has power, which stores were hardest hit, and where to send help first.

"This costs a lot of money," said Warner. "We don't make money on this, the resources we send in, but it pays off in the long term because it's about the people," said Warner.

The storm command center has a large board displaying each store on a map. All stores that are up and running show in green. It's part of the "Waffle House Index": a measurement watched by FEMA showing how severe a storm is. Green means the stores are operational with a full menu. Yellow, they'll have a limited menu. Red means the store is shut down.

"A lot of people look to us to see what we do, and we don't do anything special we just want to be there," said Warner.

Being there is the most important thing said Warner. He wants Waffle House to be a beacon for the community that will have to rebuild life as they knew it.

"They've gone through something really major in their lives, and if they can come to Waffle House, have their first hot meal, plug in their cell phone, get some air conditioning, all those little comforts go a long way," said Warner.

The Waffle House storm team has operated for more than 30 years. They began these preparations during Hurricane Hugo. The "Waffle House Index" watched by FEMA began 15 years ago during Hurricane Charley.