The economic fallout from the public health disaster required Surprise, Arizona, to develop a new strategy to minimize chaos.  Declaring an emergency just six days after the pandemic was declared on March 11, Tracy Montgomery, Surprise emergency manager, said the city began its response with the recovery in mind.

Expertise outside of the traditional public safety department was tapped immediately.  Seth Dyson, director, human service and community vitality, joined the incident management team and got a crash course in the National Incident Management System.  Dyson had the connections with the community nonprofits, the faith community, senior programs, schools, and after school programs that he could leverage to create a program overnight to provide 12,000 meals to seniors.

Like Dyson, Jeanine Jerkovic, director of economic development, had built invaluable relationships with the business community to help develop the recovery strategy.  The elements of the Surprise recovery strategy focused on these elements:  communications, metrics, reinforcement, recognition, and regeneration. 

Communications has been important from the outset: calling individual businesses to find out what they need; supplying them with banners to help advertise they are open; and helping them promote their businesses on social media.  The city also made sure businesses knew what outside resources they could tap, with or without the federal Payroll Protection Act funding. 

Some lessons learned six months after the disaster declaration include:

  • Public safety is not the exclusive response and recovery resource.
  • Staff from other disciplines who joined the incident command team were stimulated by what they learned.
  • The city is building more capability into its response and recovery plans.

For more information, go to Surprise COVID-19 and Surprise business help.

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