Burns disasters - a plan for South Africa

A D Rogers, C E Price, L A Wallis, H Rode


The need for a burns disaster plan integrated with national and provincial disaster plans was highlighted during the South African Burns Society Congress in Pretoria in 2009. In recent times, a fire at a large printing works in Paarl and a nightclub in Durban, and bush fires around Cape Town, have questioned both the prevention strategies and our preparedness to cope with the potential number of burn casualties. The likelihood of a burns disaster increases when large numbers of people are gathered in an environment where powerful sources of energy are harnessed in industry or where there has been a significant growth in transportation and technology.
Acts of terrorism have highlighted the need for national disaster plans in all countries. The Australian Burns Disaster Plan (Ausburnplan), for instance, was drawn up in the aftermath of the Bali catastrophe. Analysis of major terrorist attacks has revealed that up to 15% of the total live casualties sustained severe burn injuries; but the arrival of even 10 new major burns would overwhelm most burns units in South Africa.
The International Society for Burns Injuries (ISBI) guidelines for the management of large numbers of burns casualties recommend that ‘each country has or should have a disaster planning system that addresses its own particular needs.’ The essential elements of any disaster plan are descriptions of how medical facilities should provide appropriate treatment, and how to ensure access to such facilities. The South African Burns Society (SABS) should assist in evaluating these facilities, help to maintain standards, and formulate and implement provincial and national burns disaster plans.

Authors' affiliations

A D Rogers, Division of Plastic Surgery, UCT and Groote Schuur Hospital

C E Price,

L A Wallis,

H Rode,

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Burns; Disaster Plan; South African Burns Society

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(1):16-17.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-04-01
Date published: 2011-01-06

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