Skip to content

Being Forewarned

FOR YEARS, John Martinicky had been looking for a service that could help give him advance warning of trouble. As director of global security for Navistar in Warrenville, Illinois, Martinicky is charged with protecting a network of manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and sales offices in 90 countries around the world. Navistar, previously known as International Harvester, designs, manufactures, finances, and sells heavy machinery, including trucks, diesel engines, and school buses.

Protecting such far-flung operations and the company’s revenue, which totaled $15 billion last year, is a challenge. To anticipate and prepare for threats, Martinicky needed information on a variety of hazards—from riots in South America to typhoons in India. Martinicky is also responsible for the safety and security of employees while they are traveling for business. For these employees, advance warning of a whole host of risks is necessary. For example, natural disasters, political issues, and terrorism have all affected employees on the road.

To try and address the problem, Martinicky and his corporate security team scoured news alerts from around the world. “We found that most news alerts were given so long after an incident happened or had so little to do with our facilities that they were useless,” he says. “We were looking for something that was focused, so we could cut through irrelevant issues, and [something that] could give us lead time ahead of the media if possible.”

After many years of actively searching for such a service, Martinicky found the External Situational Awareness (ESA) program offered by NC4 of El Segundo, California. To provide the 24-hour ESA service, NC4’s analysts compile information from numerous sources, including national and international news feeds, embassies, local and national governments, live traffic cameras, and local television networks from around the world. The service also includes live weather information from 8,000 weather stations and 2,000 cameras.

As part of the ESA service, customers are asked to designate the type of incidents that would trigger an alert and at what distance from a given facility. For Martinicky this meant establishing four concentric circles, each at a set radius around a company location: The first three are set at 250, 50, and 10 miles, with the last at one mile from a location.

There is an inverse relationship between distance and alerts. As the distance from the facility decreases, the type of incidents that merit an alert goes up. For example, at 250 miles, only the most critical incidents are reported, including terrorist attacks, natural disasters, hazardous chemical releases, plane crashes, and major shootings. Within 50 miles, Martinicky would be notified of less severe events such as tornadoes or serious car accidents.

At the 10-mile mark, NC4 would report moderate incidents such as any police activity causing road closures. Within one mile of the facility, alerts would include minor fires and even mass transit delays. This feature is especially critical for manufacturing facilities, notes Martinicky, because traffic incidents that close highways near such a facility can have a real impact on operations.

In explaining how the reporting is organized, Martinicky notes that all incidents are covered within the one mile range, but less serious events are eliminated as the circles move farther from a facility. “Within one mile, we will still be notified of a terrorist attack, but at 250 miles, we won’t hear about a car accident,” he explains.

The security managers at each facility receive the alerts pertaining to their operations on their BlackBerrys. The alerts are most helpful at smaller facilities that only have one security person. Larger facilities have a full-time security manager along with a staff.

The security command center at Navistar corporate security also receives the alerts. One security officer from each shift is charged with verifying the major alerts to make sure they are relevant to a given facility. Martinicky also has a redundant weather feed to ensure that no critical weather events are overlooked.

Martinicky started using the service two years ago and has benefited from the alerts on several occasions. For example, the security manager at a warehouse in West Chicago was alerted that severe weather had been spotted within 50 miles of the facility. The security manager had employees shelter in place in an underground location. A microburst flattened the warehouse. However, only a handful of employees suffered minor injuries. Without the alert, the injuries could have been far more severe, says Martinicky.

In another incident, security at an accounting center in Knoxville, Tennessee, was notified that police were pursuing a shooter within 10 miles of the facility. Security notified employees of the manhunt before it was reported in the media. Employees were instructed to stay inside and away from windows. “Employees later praised security for letting them know what was going on,” says Martinicky. “They said they felt safer.”

Because he was satisfied with the ESA service, Martinicky recently signed up for NC4’s ActivTravel service, which provides information for employees traveling. With the program, as soon as employees buy tickets for a trip, they get a travel advisory. These advisories vary in detail, with persons on international travel getting more information than those staying within the United States.

Both corporate security and the individual traveler will get alerts in 10 different categories during the trip. Among the topics addressed by such notifications would be riots or other political unrest, natural disasters, and accidents such as plane crashes.

Martinicky says that he does not yet have enough data to determine how ActivTravel is working. He plans to elicit feedback through both formal and informal channels. Corporate security will send out a survey via e-mail to employees who have used the service. In addition, Martinicky will personally phone a handful of frequent travelers to get a detailed perspective. “If there is a problem with the service, we anticipate that it will be information overload,” says Martinicky. “If that’s the case, we will tweak the reporting feature to get more focused alerts.”

While Martinicky is unable to discuss what the company pays for the service, he says that the cost is reasonable given that he could not find a comparable product in the marketplace. According to NC4, pricing for the services varies depending on the features selected and, for ActivTravel, the number of travel itineraries per year. Base packages begin at $28,000 a year, and volume discounts are available.

To pitch the services to senior managers, Martinicky noted that they cost less than having one full-time employee performing the same duties. “And really, it would take a staff of four to have a comparable service,” he says. “And even then, we don’t even have the expertise to speak all the necessary languages. We couldn’t do this in the same comprehensive way that NC4 does.”

(For more information: Karie Wohlgemuth, director of marketing, NC4; phone: 360/835-3507; e-mail:[email protected].)