Skip to code content (skip section selection)
(a) Commercial vendors are promoting Biological Agent Detectors that have not been scientifically validated to companies and institutions in San Francisco.
(b) "A single system that exhibits high specificity for detection of biological agents in the environment currently does not exist as a commercially available item." (Director of Homeland Security, Guide for the Selection of Biological Agent Detection for Emergency First Responders, March 2005 3.2) A lack of high specificity causes an unacceptably high rate of false alarms in biological agent detectors.
(c) According to a joint statement by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Director of Homeland Security, and the Centers for Disease Control, "Currently, there are no definitive field tests for identifying biological agents. Additional field testing can mislead response efforts by providing incorrect or incomplete results, and destroy limited materials critical for definitive laboratory testing required to facilitate any appropriate public health and law enforcement response." (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Director of Health Services/Centers for Disease Control Coordinated Document; Guidance on Initial Responses to a Suspicious Letter/Container – November 2, 2004)
(d) Biological Agent Detectors that are commercially available have not been scientifically validated or approved for use by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
(e) The currently available technology and protocols to confirm the presence or absence a bioterrorism attack are not well developed, which may result in prolonged and unnecessary closure of the identified facility and nearby buildings. (United States Government Accountability Office, Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations, House Committee on Government Reform, House of Representatives. Anthrax detection: Agencies need to validate sampling activities in order to increase confidence in negative results. March 2006)
(f) A false alarm of a possible bioterrorism attack may cause civil unrest, business disruptions, prolonged facility closure, and mental health consequences.
(g) Prolonged closure of facilities and adjacent buildings to perform environmental sampling may cause extended work stoppage and significant financial loss to businesses.
(h) An estimated cost to the City and County of San Francisco in responding to a false alarm of a Biological Agent Detector is over $700,000 per incident, with an additional $200,000 for each additional day of emergency response and restoration activities. The costs may include decontamination, environmental sampling, law enforcement, laboratory testing, public health surveillance, and facility restoration.
(i) The City and County of San Francisco has a response plan for the federal Director of Homeland Security Biowatch program that continuously collects air samples to test for key bioterrorism agents and uses a CDC-coordinated Laboratory Response Network for testing and confirmation. The Laboratory Response Network program has been scientifically validated by the CDC.
(j) Emergency responders of the City and County of San Francisco use a Suspicious Substance Response Plan. With guidance from this response plan, emergency responders systematically assess the threats, potential risks, and the appropriate screening tests. If determined to be appropriate, the emergency responders or the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) would collect the substance for testing at the CDC-coordinated Laboratory Response Network (LRN) reference laboratory at the California Department of Public Health. Using scientifically validated testing procedures, the LRN can produce reliable and validated test results within several hours.
(k) The San Francisco Director of Public Health and health professionals use medical and public health surveillance to detect any cases of bioterrorism.
(l) For these reasons, the City and County of San Francisco strongly discourages the purchase and use of Biological Agent Detectors by public institutions and businesses in San Francisco.
(m) If the National Science & Technology Council develops national equipment performance standards for biological agent detectors, the Department of Public Health shall make recommendation to the Board of Supervisors regarding whether to amend or repeal this legislation.
(Added by Ord. 211-11, File No. 110348, App. 11/3/2011, Eff. 12/3/2011)