Following recent attacks on electric substations in Washington, Oregon, and North Carolina that left tens of thousands of people in the dark without heat, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness is ramping up security efforts around facilities in the Garden State.

While authorities have not commented on whether the attacks were coordinated, there is speculation they may have been carried out by white supremacist and right-wing extremist groups as part of a destabilization plot to sow civil unrest across the nation.

Dan Engelhardt, the division director of preparedness for the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said NJOHSP has been working with federal, state and local law enforcement partners “to share information related to these incidents."

Attack techniques

He said information is being shared about "attack tactics, techniques and procedures with a wide array of public and private sector entities to enhance preparedness and resiliency throughout New Jersey."

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He said at this time there are no known credible threats to the Garden State but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has confirmed electrical substations and power grids may be targeted.

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Keep your eyes open

“Given the increasing number of incidents in other regions around the country and the immense potential consequences of these types of attacks during cold weather, we do ask that the public continue to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity,” he said.

He noted NJOHSP has been working with energy sector stakeholders “to help ensure security measures are in place, and that safety protocols are implemented, all of which assist with risk mitigation as well as response and recovery efforts in the case of an actual attack.”

When asked what specific safety protocols have been put in place he said “from an operations standpoint much of those efforts would be considered law enforcement sensitive information which we’re unable to publicly disclose.”

He noted NJOHSP is working every day “with our allied partners in law enforcement and the private sector to enhance resiliency and preparedness throughout New Jersey.”

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NJ SHIELD

Engelhardt said a critical tool in the preparedness mission is the NJ SHIELD program, an online information-sharing platform between the public and private sectors.

He said the NJ SHIELD program allows NJOHSP and the State Police to work with law enforcement across the country and internationally to “engage in flat and fast information sharing, which can enable us to identify threats and trends in a timely manner”

As for who may be behind the energy grid attack, Engelhardt said investigations are ongoing but “violent extremists, both domestic and international continue to call for attacks, mostly online against critical infrastructures.”

He stressed any odd or suspicious activity around an electrical facility should immediately be reported to local police or by calling 1-866-4SAVE-NJ.

“Some suspicious activity indicators that would be more relative to this particular type of threat include trespassing, solicitation, surveillance, maybe even using a drone, we’ve seen that before, and vandalism,” he said.

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