Disaster Operations at JFCS

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
City & State:
San Francisco, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Agency Mission:

Jewish Family and Children's Services exists to provide professional and volunteer services for the purposes of developing, restoring and maintaining the competency of families and individuals of all ages.

Primary Disaster Mission:

1. Contact and Triage our “Highest Risk Clients” 2. Provide Information and Services to the Public3. Assist in providing Disaster Services to the Community as specific needs become clear.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Although our Agency, Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, provides a wide spectrum of “cradle to rocking chair” social services, we feel a special responsibility towards our highest-risk clients, including frail and isolated seniors who rely upon our case managers and in-home caregivers for their day-to-day well-being. We believe we have an obligation, in the event of an earthquake or other regional disaster, to visit each of these highest-risk clients and assure that they are safe and secure, and have the services they need.

Once we recognized that this responsibility exists, we wanted to move fast to be prepared for a disaster which could happen at any time. Leveraging standard Microsoft Office tools and the various server applications donated by Microsoft, plus some help from Microsoft Earth’s online mapping tools, we have put together “Disaster Operations” packets for highest risk clients, at our offices in the five counties we serve.

Here are some of the ways in which Microsoft technology has assisted us to optimize our mission delivery to this vulnerable population:

· We used Microsoft Word to develop a form which our social workers fill in to sign a client up for this special protection. The form went through many revisions, but Word made it easy for us to collaborate and to develop a form which we distributed to staff as a template to let them easily enter exactly the information we needed.

· We used our Agency Intranet, running on a Windows IIS platform, to make the form plus instructions and other materials available to staff. Our staff know they can turn to our Agency Intranet for the latest version of forms and documents, so they no longer need to stockpile paper forms in each office.

· Once the form is completed and saved as an ordinary Word document, it can be printed out for the client file if desired, or left stored online and easily edited and re-saved as the client’s circumstances change.

· Our Microsoft Exchange server makes it possible for caseworkers to securely e-mail these documents to the regional Disaster Operations Manager, who maintains the printed copies that will be used if the disaster cuts out power to our computers and/or printers. Because the documents never travel over the public Internet, we can safely include confidential and sensitive client information that we would never send via ordinary “public” email.

· Disaster Operations Managers can use basic and advanced Word and Windows file system tools to manage documents over time, finding and printing out pages with changes, keeping to a minimum the paper required to keep their “packets” up to date and always ready for use.

· If a disaster interferes with communications, our field staff will need to reach our clients however they can: by car, on a bicycle, or very possibly on foot. Ordinary maps may be inadequate, so our staff prepare customized location guides for each client. Using the power of Microsoft Virtual Earth (http://maps.live.com), staff can quickly print out custom maps, with directions and “bird’s eye view” pictures, to give the field staff every advantage in quickly locating the client’s residence.

· Although still in progress, we are hoping to further leverage Virtual Earth to create maps detailing the location of fire stations and planned relief and evacuation centers to include in the packets. In cooperation with organizations like SF CARD (Community Agencies Responding to Disaster) and the Fritz Institute’s BayPrep (formerly the Bay Area Preparedness Initiative), we could establish a database of such location information that would be easily updatable by authorized agencies and also accessible (as appropriate) to the public.

· Although the client information is currently stored in a number of separate Word documents, we know that someday we may want to aggregate this information into a single database. We have already tested a number of Word macro tools which will allow us to collate the data from the document’s form fields without manual re-entry. We know that we will be able to import the data into a Microsoft SQL Server database, making it rapidly but securely accessible over our virtual private network at all regions.

· Finally, almost taken for granted, the secure file system supported by Microsoft Storage Server and Active Directory allows us to store and share access to this kind of highly sensitive information among authorized staff, without compromising client confidentiality.

Of course, we all hope it will be a long time before we need to actually deliver this disaster-response service. But we believe that doing this work in preparation, and in the process encouraging our staff and clients to think very specifically about their own preparation for a disaster, we are already making an impact.

Because of Microsoft’s donations over the years – both directly and through Tech Soup Stock – our Agency was able to standardize on the Windows and Office platform. This particular program is just one example of how we, and agencies like us, can use these tools to rapidly build, continually improve, and efficiently deploy a programmatic response to community needs as they are identified.

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery