The 1917 Halifax Explosion: the first coordinated local civilian medical response to disaster in Canada

The 1917 Halifax Explosion: the first coordinated local civilian medical response to disaster in Canada

Can J Surg 2017;60(6):372-374 | PDF | Appendix

Chryssa N. McAlister, MD; Allan E. Marble, PhD; T. Jock Murray, MD

Summary

The 1917 Halifax Explosion was an unfortunate but predictable tragedy, given the sea traffic and munitions cargo, resulting in sudden large-scale damage and catastrophic injuries, with 1950 dead and 8000 injured. Although generous support was received from the United States, the bulk of the medical work was undertaken using local resources through an immediate, massive, centrally coordinated medical response. The incredible care provided 100 years ago by these Canadian physicians, nurses and students is often forgotten, but deserves attention. The local medical response to the 1917 disaster is an early example of coordinated mass casualty relief, the first in Canada, and remains relevant to modern disaster preparedness planning.


Accepted Nov. 8, 2017

Affiliations: From the Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont. (McAlister); the Department of Surgery, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS (Marble); and the Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS (Murray).

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: All authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.016317

Correspondence to: C. McAlister, 564 Belmont Ave West, Suite 306, Kitchener ON N2M 5N6 chryssa.mcalister@utoronto.ca