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Not My Job: We Quiz Craig Fugate, Head Of FEMA, On Zima


Lastly, let's listen back to an interview that is on point for a disaster of a year. We talked to Craig Fugate, who runs the Federal Emergency Management Agency back in May. And I asked him about his qualifications for the job.


CRAIG FUGATE: Yeah, I trained as a professional firefighter and paramedic early in my career.

SAGAL: Right, so you actually went to - they call it fire college? Is that like a four-year university where things are constantly on fire?

FUGATE: No, it's about 200 hours of learning how not to burn.

SAGAL: I understand.


SAGAL: Now – and so you trained your way up. You were a firefighter, an EMT and then you were seriously - you were in charge of the Florida Department of Emergency Management or something, the equivalent? Is that right?

FUGATE: I was director of emergency management, most notably in 2004, when we were hit by four hurricanes in one year.

SAGAL: Yeah, I was about to say you didn't take it easy on yourself. You picked Florida.


SAGAL: That state is basically one rolling disaster.

FUGATE: Yeah, it gets kind of interesting down there...

SAGAL: Yeah.


FUGATE: ...Particularly when you have the alligators and everything else.

SAGAL: Really? Do you ever have to - do you have any part of your organization that tries to anticipate disasters that haven't happened yet?

FUGATE: Oh, yeah - geomagnetic storms, your asteroids coming out of space, space debris…

SAGAL: You practice for asteroids crashing?


SAGAL: So do you do this any other way than watching, like, "Armageddon" over and over again?


SAGAL: And if the asteroid comes, do you have to be like Bruce Willis and go up there and blow it up yourself?

FUGATE: No, we have people for that.

SAGAL: I understand.


ROXANNE ROBERTS: I - this is Roxanne. I have a question for you. Do you travel - do you go to a lot of these various sites?

FUGATE: Yeah, and that's generally a bad sign. If I show up, it's not good.

SAGAL: Right. You did invent something we found out called the Waffle House index.



FUGATE: That came out of the '04 hurricanes.

SAGAL: Could you tell us what the Waffle House index is?

FUGATE: Sure. If the Waffle House is open, everything's good. If the Waffle House is open...


LUKE BURBANK: Heck of a job, Fugey (ph)...


SAGAL: No, I read about this, an article that basically the theory is, like, Waffle Houses are the cockroaches of the restaurant industry. They cannot be killed.


SAGAL: So the first thing that happened...

FUGATE: They are open most of the time. And that was the index. If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad. We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow because they lost power...


SAGAL: All right, all right, and if they have regular menu, you just - it's everything's fine.

FUGATE: If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the have bad stuff yet.

SAGAL: Yeah – come up with that.


SAGAL: I have one more question before we go to the game. Have you guys in all your war gaming and planning thought about what you would do in the zombie apocalypse?

FUGATE: Yeah, we want everybody to download the FEMA app so we can get you instructions on what to do if there's a zombie outbreak.

SAGAL: Oh, I should mention - I forgot to mention that FEMA is now - you're as hip as Tinder.


SAGAL: There is an app. And we don't want people trying to - like, we don't want people - if, like, the flood waters are rising to their neck, you don't want them holding up their phone and trying to download the app then. You want them to do it now.

FUGATE: Yeah, or use a selfie stick and stand up on high ground.


SAGAL: You are a practical man with a tool bag filled with solutions. Well, Craig Fugate, what a pleasure to talk to you. It's somewhat comforting to know you're out there looking out for us. We have asked you here to play a game we're calling...



SAGAL: You run FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so we're going to ask you about Zima, a terrible beverage from the 1990s.


SAGAL: And as it happens, an actual federal emergency.


SAGAL: Answer two of these three questions right and you will win our prize for one of our listeners - Carl Kasell's voice on their voicemail. Bill, who is Craig Fugate playing for?

KURTIS: Jesse Cox from Louisville, Ky.

SAGAL: Now, I have to ask - you seem of an age - do you remember Zima?

FUGATE: I have no idea what it was.

SAGAL: Ah. So what it basically was the sort of clear beverage that tasted like bad Sprite mixed with vodka. And it ended up being a terrible failure. But here's your first question - in its first year, they sold millions and millions of cases. But then what happened? A, an urban myth went around saying it was made of Kool-Aid and rubbing alcohol, B, stores stocked it in the soda pop section where drinkers could not find it, or C, people actually tasted it?


FUGATE: Oh, Cs too easy. It's got to be B.

SAGAL: No, it was actually C.


SAGAL: Always go for the cruel answer here, sir. It's a tip. What happened was driven by these amazing advertisements, people flocked to buy it. They sold a million cases - or a million barrels, I should say. And then people drank it and sales plummeted.

All right, you still have two more chances. Despite the fact that it tasted pretty bad, sales did continue for a while based in part on what false rumor? A, that drinking enough of it could instantly make you able to speak Japanese, B, that it was an excellent solvent for removing dried gum and tar, or C, that no matter how much you drank, you could still pass a breathalyzer test?

FUGATE: I would go with frat boy C.

SAGAL: You're right.


SAGAL: Although it wasn't frat boys.


SAGAL: Apparently, it was a rumor among high school students that breathalyzers could not detect a Zima drunk.


SAGAL: They were wrong.


SAGAL: All right, if you get this last one right, you will win our prize. Coors finally pulled the plug on Zima, stopped production in 2008. And then there was this movement to bring it back - bring back Zima, Coors. But what happened to that movement? A, the leader of the movement, a young woman from South Carolina, admitted she never actually tasted it but liked the name, B, nobody came to the meetings because the only beverage served there was Zima...


SAGAL: ...Or C, an online petition out of the million needed got 850 signatures.

FUGATE: Let's go with C.

SAGAL: You're right...


SAGAL: ...Mr. Fugate.


SAGAL: It was the million man march to bring back Zima, and only 850 sad people showed up. So it didn't happen.

BURBANK: Their other support group - Zalcoholics Zanonymous also never took off.

SAGAL: No, I guess not. Bill, how did Craig Fugate do on our quiz.

KURTIS: No disaster here. Craig, you got two right. And in our books, that is a win.

SAGAL: Congratulations.


SAGAL: Craig Fugate is the head of FEMA. And you can find the new FEMA app in the app store of your choice now. Get it before the next disaster hits you. Craig Fugate, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

FUGATE: Thanks for having me.

SAGAL: Great to have you, too.

SAGAL: That's it for our show this week. And I'm proud we so efficiently dispatched one more hour of 2016 - only a few thousand left to go.Support for NPR comes from NPR stations and Lumber Liquidators, a proud sponsor of NPR, offering more than 400 styles, including hardwood, bamboo, laminate and vinyl, with flooring specialists in hundreds of stores nationwide. More at or 1-800-HARDWOOD.Angie's List - for 20 years, committed to providing its members with a transparency about local services. Now offering everyone access to ratings, reviews and other information. Angie's List, home is where our heart is. And Progressive insurance, with insurance for cars, home, boat, motorcycles, RVs and commercial vehicles, at 1-800-PROGRESSIVE and WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is a production of NPR and WBEZ Chicago in association with Urgent Haircut Productions - Doug Berman, benevolent overlord. BJ Leiderman composed our theme. Our program is produced by Robin Linn and Miles Doornbos. Technical direction is from Lorna White. Our CFO is Ann Nguyen. Our production coordinator is Robert Neuhaus. Our senior producer is Ian Chillag. And the executive producer of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME is Mike Danforth. Thanks to Bill Kurtis, all of our panelists, to the amazing and immortal Carl Kasell and thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Peter Sagal, and we will see you next week. This is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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