Claire's team usually spent the night in Raleigh, setting out at 5 or 6 am and working 14- to16-hour days, often with half of those hours spent trying to make their way around flood waters that washed out the roads to and from their daily destinations.
Though Claire has worked at disaster scenes, in health emergency situations and among the most vulnerable populations around the world, she always comments on how, no matter how impoverished people might be, still people always try to help each other. In the wake of Hurricane Florence the people of coastal North Carolina were no exception.
Claire spoke of how people who looked as though they had little to spare themselves would show up at the high school shelter in Wilmington in beat-up-looking cars and trucks bringing parcels of water, blankets, clothing, and other necessities for the people staying in the shelter, some of whom had lost everything.
And then there was the Waffle House Jump Team.
The Waffle House restaurant franchise has a policy – well, it’s more of a mission – of never closing, of staying open all the time, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, even under the direst weather conditions, so that people will always have a place to eat.
So dependable is Waffle House in this mission that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in determining the severity of a natural disaster, refers among other data measurements to one known as the Waffle House Index: when there is a natural disaster FEMA runs a continuing check on which Waffle Houses in the stricken area are still open to determine the severity of the storm. If a Waffle House is closed then this indicates a dire situation indeed.
And so dedicated is Waffle House in its mission that when disaster does strike in an area in which one or more of its restaurants are located the company sends in its Waffle House Jump Team.
The Waffle House Jump Team is made up of restaurant employees who have enlisted to be deployed on short notice to areas where they are needed to help keep a Waffle House open.
Claire talked to one of the Jump Team Members, a cheerful Waffle House waitress from South Carolina, though other members of this group had traveled from as far away as Colorado. Claire was impressed and heartened by how friendly and happy to be there all the Jump Team members were, and how kind and helpful the were to the hurricane-weary customers.