Image: CHD Client and Wildfire Survivor Being Interviewed

Turning Data into Action During a Wildfire Disaster

Posted in: Blog

When the devastating North Bay Wildfires erupted on October 9, 2017, the vulnerable immigrant community served by California Human Development (CHD) was displaced at a scale never seen before in Northern California. After years of managing their program data using spreadsheets, CHD had recently implemented Exponent Case Management, a Salesforce app developed by Exponent Partners. By leveraging the Salesforce platform, CHD was able to quickly take action to help their community.

When Disaster Strikes Overnight

In this video, California Human Development Client Javier Fajardo described the fire closing in on his family. “I remember at exactly 1:45 in the morning, I got up because I heard an explosion. So I went outside…when I opened the front door and I saw the glowing sky was all red…and I thought I was dreaming.”

Kai Harris, California Human Development Director of Programs, described the immediate aftermath the next morning. “When the fires started, I woke to a series of text messages from our executive team.”

“This office was closed, it was in the evacuation zone. We thought it had burned and we were trying to determine where all our staff was—” Harris got emotional as he recalled the community impact of what had been the most destructive wildfire in the history of California at that time.

Flexibility Provided by a Platform Solution was Essential

While the wildfires raged, CHD used the Exponent Case Management app to analyze their program data, design a new disaster relief program, apply for funding, and launch their response efforts.  CHD’s new One-Stop Wildfire Relief & Resource Center received $5million in disaster relief funds from the California Department of Social Services. These disaster relief funds were dispersed to wildfire survivors throughout 2018.

Anita Maldonado, California Human Development’s Chief Executive Officer, described the process. “We needed to pivot quickly to what we could do to help the community and because we are a multi-services organization we wanted to make sure that we provided some kind of service or assistance to those affected by the fire.”

Phot: Grassy hillside burning as residents watch from the road.

“Exponent Case Management allowed us the flexibility to not only create an intake system that would satisfy our funders but get those checks in the hands of the people who needed it the most,” Maldonado said.

Partners for Evolving Program Management

California Human Development had just migrated to the Salesforce platform prior to the disaster. The robust features and customization options of Exponent Case Management allowed the organization to respond to the wildfires in real-time.

“This space was chaos, we were designing, building, and running the program all at the same time. Prior to starting to use Exponent Case Management, CHD has had a number of disparate solutions and often that has been pen and paper or spreadsheets,” said Harris.

Photo: Staff CHD staff members looking at a laptop screen.

“Exponent has the right expertise of the larger nonprofit ecosystem that surrounds Salesforce specifically and all of the additional applications and additional content and functionality you can access through the Salesforce platform. Our use of Exponent Case Management was really key in being able to run that program as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Harris continued to describe the working relationship with Exponent Partners consultants.  “I have found the Exponent staff to be really expert in their domain and really helped us help families find homes.”

To learn more, watch the video on YouTube or Vimeo and join our next Exponent Case Management webinar.

Also note that Harris will be speaking about CHD’s use of Exponent Case Management at the 2019 Technology Affinity Group conference in Miami on November 19, 2019.