Sep 1, 2001 12:00 PM

JOHN MARTINICKY is in top form as security director at INTERNATIONAL TRUCK and ENGINE, even in the wake of a workplace shooting spree.

When John Martinicky learned there had been a shooting at one of his company's Chicago-area facilities, he immediately dropped everything and went to assess the situation.

He was not at home at the time, nor anywhere near the plant. Rather, as director of corporate security for International Truck and Engine Corp., Warrensville, Ill., the Chicago resident was in Las Vegas, finalizing security details of a new truck launch. Martinicky heard that a former employee had gained access to the plant in Melrose Park, Ill., and shot several employees before shooting himself. The next flight back to Chicago left 45 minutes later, and Martinicky was on it. He did not take time to pack his clothes or collect his belongings.

Arriving at the plant, Martinicky immediately coordinated with local police and crisis counselors who were already on-site.

"The primary concern was to assure employees that the environment was safe. We increased security at that facility and others, and we provided escorts," says Martinicky.

Recalls Joe Trosclair, manager of corporate loss prevention: "We were in Las Vegas to protect our new project launch when we received the call informing us of the incident. John couldn't sacrifice the launch project despite the tragedy. So we worked together as a team. He directed me to take charge of the launch while he flew back to Chicago to handle the shooting incident. We kept in contact every day, discussing the Melrose incident and the Vegas launch. John handled the Melrose situation in a professional manner as it unfolded."

For his dedication and attention to duty, demonstrated in time of crisis and in the workaday world, John Martinicky has been named Access Control & Security Systems' 2001 Security Director of the Year.

It has taken time, but Martinicky and the entire workforce at International has moved forward since the February shooting. The security staff has endeavored to learn from the experience, identifying procedures that worked and ones that failed.

"The assailant was captured on camera trying to get through the doors of the facility and not being able to. The turnstiles worked and the cameras worked," says Carole Jawor, corporate security analyst and the person who nominated Martinicky for Security Director of the Year. "People talked to the shooter the day before the shooting and he seemed fine. The shooting could not have been prevented.

"You cannot have surveillance on everyone and you cannot necessarily predict when someone will explode like that," continues Jawor.

"There was an attitude of 'it can't happen here,'" admits Martinicky. "But when a gun is held to someone's head, there is little you can do at that point.

"Since the shooting, some weird people have been coming out of the woodwork, warning, for example, of a repeat shooting," Martinicky continues. "There are now more reports of suspicious activity. The level of awareness is higher."

In May, International organized a family recreation day at the Melrose Park facility. Jam-packed with food, activities and people in good spirits, the event served both to console and uplift a community still grieving. The company has also established a fund to provide assistance to the families affected by the tragedy.

Since the incident at the Melrose Park facility, Martinicky has worked on improvements to the crisis intervention plan in place at International. He recently presented the new initiatives to company management, and lengthy employee workshops are planned for all levels of the company.

The crisis intervention plan contains four iterations:

  • a one-hour executive overview;

  • a four-hour management and union leadership meeting;

  • a two-day development and training course for on-site crisis intervention teams; and

  • a one-hour safety session for all employees.

"My dad worked with my grandfather at his grocery store. They worked long hours and I watched them. I knew it was hard work, but I liked the idea of working for something that was yours, feeling a sense of ownership,"

"We want our employees to be able to recognize the behavioral red flags so we can help an employee before things reach the breaking point where the person is desperate enough to resort to violence as a means of dealing with his or her problems," says Martinicky. "In addition, there are other types of violence that require a more reactive solution. For example, a disgruntled spouse or significant other or a dissatisfied customer may show up at a facility. In this case, we must react quickly and decisively since we don't have the luxury of being able to evaluate and measure the emotional change in behavior of a co-worker. In these cases, we must rely on our systems and local law enforcement."

Martinicky began his career at International, one of the largest commercial truck manufacturers in the United States, in 1975 with an administrative position. He had earned an associate degree in business, and at 20 years old, had dreams of owning his own business.

His work ethic was inspired early in life. "My dad worked with my grandfather at his grocery store. They worked long hours and I watched them. I knew it was hard work, but I liked the idea of working for something that was yours, feeling a sense of ownership," says Martinicky.

In 1982, there was an opening in the corporate security department at International and he was intrigued although he was not sure what corporate security entailed.

Martinicky entered the job when the company was downsizing and access control revolved largely around the guard force each guard was expected to recognize all employees who entered and exited the main entrance. "I laid out a strategy with card key systems. There was user reluctance, so we brought in security consultants to observe employees using the system and make notes about problems encountered," says Martinicky.

When Martinicky was promoted to director of corporate security, he set out to accomplish three things:

  • amplify the use of prevention and screening to provide for a more secure working environment;

  • improve systems and use technology to free up security personnel for more value-added services; and

  • institute a violence-prevention program in the workplace.

International, formerly known as Navistar, manufactures industrial trucks and diesel engines and has cornered 70 percent of the school bus market. Headquartered outside of Chicago, International has a proud history dating back to Cyrus McCormick's invention of the mechanical reaper in 1831. International began as a manufacturer of equipment designed to help farmers bring produce to markets. It began manufacturing gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in 1907, introducing its first truck in 1909.

International also maintains a vast dealer network. The company boasts a mix of long-term employees and newcomers. In 2000, International had $8.4 billion in sales.

Today, International employs about 17,000 people at facilities across North America, including its world headquarters outside of Chicago, engine plants, parts distribution centers and warehouses. Nearly 300 of those employees report to Martinicky, including loss-prevention officers, security analysts, and proprietary and contract guards. His employees work across North America in the United States, Mexico and Canada, a reality that forces Martinicky to be a resourceful communicator. He holds regular conference calls and uses e-mail to stay in touch. An annual meeting consists of speakers addressing various security topics. According to Jawor, her boss's attention to detail is so acute, he often forwards articles of interest to employees.

Martinicky and staff are responsible for conducting background checks and drug testing for all potential employees. Since November 2000, Jawor says, the department has completed 1,500 background checks.

The security staff has an equally rigid and effective approach to domestic violence. According to Jawor, there have been incidents of violence at some of the manufacturing sites. In addition, sometimes problems that occur in the private lives of employees can threaten to bring violence into the workplace.

"We have zero tolerance for violence. One employee, for example, was found to have threatened his wife with a shotgun at home. We terminated him," says Martinicky.

The security department at International, under Martinicky's tutelage, is responsible for many things that do not fall under the strict definition of a security officer. "The people that work for me are loss-prevention officers. We don't call them security officers because they do more than that, including first response and first aid," says Martinicky.

"He continually praises the people that work for him for their accomplishments. Overall, he is the best supervisor I have ever worked for because he is available to discuss any idea that you bring to the table. If you go to him with a problem, he always manages to find time to work with you to resolve it."

Their duties include providing security for events such as the NGV truck launch, which took place under a veil of secrecy in Las Vegas in February it was the same launch Martinicky was attending when he heard about the shooting. At the launch, International released its first entirely redesigned truck in 25 years. The significance of such a product was not lost on Martinicky, and his staff sprang into action to ensure that the unveiling remained a secret.

"The truck is revolutionary, what I call a Navigator on steroids," Martinicky says. "We needed secrecy before the launch, because we needed to keep it a surprise for our dealers and employees. In addition, we wanted to keep it under wraps in case our competitors tried to investigate. It was a real positive aspect of security. In the end, the competitors did not learn about it, we were able to keep it a secret up until the end, and our employees were thrilled with the new truck."

Martinicky interacts at every level of the company, especially the executive level. He reports to Pam Hamilton, senior vice president of human resources and administration, who, in turn, reports directly to the CEO. It falls to Martinicky to ensure shareholder meetings are secure.

Says Jawor: "There is a lot of respect for John in the company." Trosclair cites Martinicky as raising the profile of security at International. "The vision he has for the department is one of his greatest strengths. He has brought the security department to a level of high visibility, and he is always putting new policies and programs in place," says Trosclair.

Martinicky has not confined his security practices to the facilities. He developed a chassis-theft deterrent system in the late 1980s to stem a tide of chassis theft from dealer lots. Often, the stolen chassis are resold with their identifying numbers grinded off. The system he developed distributes discrete, unique identifiers on various places on the truck to aid in recovery.

The security department cannot enforce policies at the dealerships, but the vast majority of dealers have implemented procedures and equipment standard to the other International facilities. Martinicky's team helps dealers with risk assessment, and team members make recommendations about access control, CCTV and security personnel.

Martinicky leads the pack in saluting his employees for a job well done. "We have regular conference calls, and in the course of these calls, I try to point out who has performed good deeds work-wise and generally the rest of staff responds by saying 'way to go'," he says

There is an online reporting function where Martinicky's staff can input incident information. These incidents are then discussed in the regular conference calls.

Martinicky sends his security team for training and is innovative in his use of video and teleconferences to connect his people in different offices. Most of all, he is accessible and proactive.

Martinicky received his CPP designation two years ago and he actively encourages his staff to pursue the prestigious designation. "The CPP shows a commitment to the field and demonstrates knowledge of a body of work. Education is the best investment we can make in our people," he says.

Trosclair cites Martinicky as raising the profile of security at International. "The vision he has for the department is one of his greatest strengths. He has brought the security department to a level of high visibility and he is always putting new policies and programs in place."

Martinicky, ever goal-oriented, has set his sights on finishing installation of enterprise-wide security systems. He would also like to increase professionalism in the practice of security. Most of all, he hopes to see his staff continue to be a resource and a partner to the rest of the company.

"He continually praises the people that work for him for their accomplishments," Trosclair says. "Overall, he is the best supervisor I have ever worked for because he is available to discuss any idea that you bring to the table. If you go to him with a problem, he always manages to find time to work with you to resolve it."

Martinicky is a native of Chicago, a Southsider who has now migrated to the northern suburbs, where he lives with his wife while he fields phone calls from his three children in college for "more money, please Dad".

He runs several times a week and has completed five Chicago marathons. He is a certified scuba diver and a skier, although he rarely can devote time to these activities.

It would appear, however, that his job as director of corporate security for International is one of his truly beloved pursuits.

"I have the second-best job in the company. I am involved in so many aspects. One day I'm an engineer, working on the tech side with our security systems. The next day I am screening candidates as part of the human resources department. It's a fantastic job."

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