Published: Jun 27, 2012 6:52 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 27, 2012 11:29 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - What is more reliable than a Waffle House? Apparently, not much! The government says it uses the Waffle House Index when responding to disasters like a hurricane.

"It's an idea that if the waffle houses are open, your community is okay and if they're not, there's work to be done for everybody," said Gerald Campbell with Lee County Emergency Management.

The Waffle House Index was developed by Florida's former Emergency Management director as a reliable way to find out real-time conditions after a severe weather event, like a hurricane.

"They seem to be really ready, they're important parts of the community that they serve and they're well distributed around here," said Campbell.

Here's how it works. Emergency management will call the Waffle House after a disaster to see what they're serving.  If the restaurant has a full menu, the index is green. If it is a limited menu, the index is yellow because there's no power. If the restaurant is closed, the index is red.

"If the Waffle House isn't open, it's a bad disaster. We're always 'Johnny on the spot,' " explained Steve Wave, a Waffle House area manager. "As soon as the hurricane passes, we have a team of people that come in, do an assessment of the damages, and try to get the restaurant open as soon as we can."

And the restaurant chain says it is happy it can help.

While the Waffle House is not the only tool for emergency officials, it may be the tastiest.

"We have a lot much more sophisticated tools for damage assessment. We have responders on the ground, but it's just a really good way to communicate quickly with a community," Campbell told WINK.