As authorities continue to investigate last week’s terror attack outside the British Parliament, homeland security officials in the United States are advising the public to be vigilant.

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is calling on hospitals, hotels and motels to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

Eric Tysarczyk, the director of policy and planning for the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, stressed no specific, credible threat has been made against any of these areas in the Garden State, but “we’re putting out actionable information that both the public and our private sector partners and local law enforcement can use ... just to move a little in that direction of stronger protection.”

Hospitals are considered a potential terror target because of their open access, which means anybody can walk into the lobby.

“Like other open-access facilities, they share common vulnerabilities where the public is allowed ingress and egress in a free motion,” he said

“We try to provide information to them to harden their resiliency and say here are some steps you can take to screen visitors and staff as they enter and exit your building.”

He also noted hospitals are potential targets because first responders generally are targets of malicious actors, but also because “many of the folks inside are vulnerable attack, and it is a mass gathering site.”

He pointed out some hospitals have chemicals and devices that could interest terrorist attackers, and they play a prominent role in prevention and protection, which might also catch the attention of those planning an attack.

Tysarczyk said hotels and motels are also being urged to ramp up vigilance, for a number of reasons.

“Similarly, the open-access common vulnerability as well as the large number of people that gather there,” he said

“The public should remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings. Unfortunately, we’ve seen the trend be towards these areas as targets. Hopefully, those preventative measures will preclude events from manifesting.”

As an example, he said if you’re in area with other people and everyone is wearing shirts, slacks and dresses, but you see someone wearing a large bulky coat — notify police.

“That is a characteristic that we saw internationally, where malicious actors are hiding weapons and things like that,” he said.

Tysarczyk said another example of something odd at a public facility would be “the back loading dock, for instance — folks congregating in that area that are not conducting the deliveries.”

“We’re trying to raise people’s awareness to at least say 'that seems out of place; let me tell someone,' and that first point of information should be either the security guard or the local police or someone like that."

He added if you do speak up and the situation does not pose a threat, “then no harm, no foul. But if it is, maybe reporting it can lead to greater safety.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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