San Fracnsico moves to regulate use of biodetection devices

City officials in San Francisco are moving to regulate the use of biodetection devices owned and operated by private businesses, building owners and institutions in order to curb false alarms.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu recently introduced legislation that, if passed, would require the registration of biological agent detectors with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, according to

Registration fees would cost someone seeking to screen for bioterror agents $1,700 for their first device, and $200 for each additional device. A false alarm would cost the owner $5,000 and jump to $10,000 for multiple offenses.

The San Francisco police and fire departments, city health officials, the Department of Emergency Management and several business groups consulted in drafting the new legislation, reports.

City officials would not reveal an estimate of the number of such devices that are currently in private hands in the San Francisco area, but they said that tracking bioterror agents is best left to emergency responders and other trained experts.

"A false alarm of a possible bioterrorism attack may cause civil unrest, business disruptions, prolonged facility closure, and mental health consequences,'' according to the proposed ordinance, reports.

San Francisco officials estimate that, in the first 24 hours, a false alarm could cost the city $700,000. The city would be responsible for evacuations, traffic control, collecting and testing human and environmental samples, criminal investigations and administering countermeasures, among a variety of other tasks.

While there have been no serious reports of false alarms in the San Francisco area, there have been in other parts of the country. It is believed by some that the bio-detection devices sold to the general public by commercial vendors may not be as accurate as needed and could be prone to false alarms.