San Francisco calls for anthrax detector registration

New legislation in San Francisco proposed by David Chiu, a supervisor with the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee, aims to reduce the cost of biothreat false alarms by requiring users of the equipment to register their devices.

According to Chiu's proposal, private devices are unnecessary because the city has its own bioterror response plan and responding to a false alarm could cost as much as $700,000. Makers of these devices that are used to detect anthrax and other biological threats are calling Chiu's proposal misguided, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

Chiu's aide, Judson True, addressed the committee on Thursday and said that while the city has not experienced any false reports of threats from companies using devices, the measure was a pre-emptive strike modeled after a similar ordinance in New York City. The legislation discourages businesses from using the devices by slapping on hefty fees for permits and false alarm violations. The legislation was passed by the committee on Thursday and still requires approval from the full board.

Matt Scullion, a business developer for Idaho Technology, Inc., said that few private companies invest in biological agent detection because it is too expensive and because calling police or professional help is a more natural reaction. Idaho Technology makes one device that costs as much as a sports car.

“Would you trade a nice mid-level German sports car for one of those to keep in your home in case someone decides to send an anthrax letter to you?” Scullion said, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Jim Whelan, the president of Alexeter Technologies, LLC, agreed that the new rules would not affect his company because few private companies use these biodetection advices. He did say, however, that restricting organizations with detectors could hurt the city during a true disaster, when emergency responders can't reach everyone in need.

“I think this is one of those regulations when there is a real event, someone will tap their head and say, ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time,’” Whelan said, according to the San Francisco Examiner.