Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 13

the disasters
in perspective

doomsday
atmosphere
When the burns of the initial four patients had been
dressed, I accompanied them to the elevator as they were
being moved to hospital rooms. A doomsday atmosphere was
accentuated when one of the men began to sing the hymn
"Crossing The Bar."
Ambulances and private vehicles were used to take patients
to the hospitals where approximately seventy patients were
admitted that night. The eighty-five bed Crozer Hospital
received forty-five victims; two patients were admitted to
Delaware Hospital in Wilmington, and the remainder went
to Chester Hospital. On October 8, it was announced that
the tenth victim had died at Chester Hospital, at which time
sixty-six were still hospitalized. A substantial number of these
remained in the hospital for prolonged periods of time, as
they required skin grafting and reconstructive surgery.
There had been significant increases in the knowledge of
the patho-physiology of burns since the time of the Eddystone Explosion in 1917. It was now recognized that not only
was fluid lost externally, but that it was also sequestered in the
interstitial spaces of the body, and that burn shock was caused
not by toxins but by decreased blood volume. A study of the
victims of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston in
1942 had shown that burn shock could be prevented by adequate fluid replacement, and this knowledge was put to good
use in treating the Sun Oil fire victims who received high
volumes of intravenous fluids with beneficial effect.
A second major advance in burn care was in the use of skin
grafting to accomplish early closure of the burn wound, thereby controlling infection and preventing fatal sepsis. Prior to
1930 pinch grafting was the primary method used to promote
skin coverage of burn wounds, but by 1946, split thickness
grafting had come into common use. The cutting of grafts
of uniform thickness was facilitated by the use of the Padgett
Dermatome, which had become available in 1939. The effective use of skin grafting was a significant factor in successful
burn treatment in the Sun Oil fire.

A comparison of the management of the casualties in the
three disasters correlates with improvements in care of the
injured and progress in the field of medicine. At the time of
the Jackson explosion, there was no hospital in which to treat
the victims, whereas in the later periods prompt hospitalization was possible. When the Eddystone explosion occurred,
the mortality associated with burns was high because of lack
of knowledge of the cause and treatment of burn shock, and
because modern techniques for skin grafting had not at that
time been developed. In the interval that elapsed between
the Eddystone explosion and the Sun Oil fire, knowledge
increased and techniques improved, making the victims of
the Sun Oil fire the beneficiaries of medical progress. Were a
comparison to be made of the treatment of hypothetical victims of a present day disaster, further improvements in care
would be conspicuous.
The response of the members of the community, the medical and nursing professions, firefighters, ambulance drivers,
paramedical personnel, hospital workers, and others to these
crises was uniformly similar. In each instance, heroic and
unselfish workers were made to control the fires, rescue the
wounded, and treat their injuries. Although no formal Disaster
Plan was in existence at any of these times, it seemed that a
spirit of inherent community coordination was a common
factor in the responses to each one of these disasters.
Editor's note: As Dr. Armitage's article clearly states, a well-coordinated disaster plan did not exist at the time of these incidents and the
lack of a plan may have contributed to the chaos.
We're pleased to further note that Delaware County government has coordinated an outstanding emergency plan
which can be implemented in the case of a natural disaster, a
pandemic or a terrorist event. This plan has been developed
with the input of dozens of stakeholders from throughout
the county including representatives from each of the health
systems, school districts, local and state police, colleges and
universities; the PA Department of Health, retirement communities, nursing homes and rehab centers, and more.
For more details on the county's SNS (Strategic National Stockpile)
Plan contact DCMS staff at delcomedsoc@comcast.net or call us at
(610) 892-7750.

www.delcomedsoc.org

DELAWARE COUNTY MEDICINE & HEALTH

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017

Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 1
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 2
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 3
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 4
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 5
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 6
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 7
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 8
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 9
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 10
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 11
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 12
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 13
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 14
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 15
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 16
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 17
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 18
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 19
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 20
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 21
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 22
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 23
Delaware County Medical Society Summer 2017 - 24
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