(What’s it like on the front line supporting the firm’s clients?  What are the challenges the firm’s experts help senior business executives, general counsel, board members and other decision-makers address?  Welcome to ACTION WEDNESDAY.  Every Wednesday, the Front Line Blog publishes a new case study.)

One Set of Risks. 220 Operational Security Plans.

When a legal situation took a sudden, unexpected turn, the regional head of security for the U.S. operations of a well-known globally branded company became concerned for the safety of her employees, clients and facilities in several U.S. states – geographical areas that involved more than 220 separate facilities.

Facing very tight and near-urgent time constraints, the security head needed to implement – for every location across three states – highly customized, 24-hour operational security plans as quickly as possible. The executive and her immediate superiors were concerned not just about protests and acts of violence by contractors and union members, but also that early detection, exposure and negative media publicity prior to the implementation of these operational security plans might result in significant damage to the company’s brand and reputation – on both a national and a global basis.

An Extensive Professional Network – Quickly and Quietly Mobilized

Hillard Heintze took immediate action. It tasked senior, highly experienced security planners with gathering critical site-specific information and authoring high-level operational security plans for each location. Within 72-hours, it activated a nationwide network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, private security providers, emergency responders and medical institutions. It quickly and quietly mobilized several hundred professionals on a highly confidential basis – experts trained in security, law enforcement, intelligence and emergency preparedness and response. And it launched strategic counter-intelligence capabilities to prevent, deter and mitigate the impacts of on-site facility infiltration and “brand damage espionage.”

Nationwide Implementation

Over the next 18 months, the company engaged Hillard Heintze to help it undertake the same precise planning steps in all 50 U.S. states. Comprehensive operational security plans were in place in every single facility – on time. No major negative security-related event occurred. Protests resulted in no serious harm to any individuals. In addition, there were no damaging leaks to the media, no serious instances of sabotage or willful destruction of company assets and – as a result of these factors, among others – no negative impact to the company’s brand in the United States or worldwide.

Unplugged: The Project Manager’s Perspective

“This wasn’t just a very high priority initiative for this client – it was also a highly complex coordination exercise. Multiple locations and multiple states. A nest of various timing issues and deadlines. Several dozen security and emergency preparedness contractors. Several hundred operational security personnel. And 50 state-specific sets of laws – and their complicated and usually inconsistent implications for the plan’s execution. The client was very pleased that this came together so quickly.”

The ACTION WEDNESDAY Tool Box: Two Key Take-Aways

1.  Balance timing vs. costs.  Preparing an Operational Security Plan for several key facilities, like corporate headquarters, is one thing.  Always have that in place.  Create it once. Then update it yearly. Doing so for multiple – or in this case, hundreds of – locations is much more costly.  You have to balance timing against costs.  This client’s legal and risk management teams established a specific legal action as the trigger – but had engaged us months in advance to do some preliminary planning.  That early insight for us proved tremendously important.

2.  Protect the brand, when necessary, by using trusted third parties and forbidding disclosure of your identity – up until the last minute.  This is how we structured this engagement.  In spite of the fact that dozens of contractors and hundreds of personnel across the country were positioned to mobilize within 24 hours, 95% of them were never informed of the client’s name or facility address.  That’s because the “go” order was given, in the end, for only a handful of facilities.  This resulted in a very high level of assurance for the client on two levels: (1) robust security prevention and preparation with (2) remarkably low risks of exposure to the corporate brand.