The Oklahoma Blood Institute has joined six other community blood centers in a nationwide reserve for emergencies.
Partners in the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps, or BERC, have committed to collecting extra units of blood on a rotating, on-call schedule. That blood will be held for scenarios like mass shootings, natural disasters or, as OBI President and CEO Dr. John Armitage pointed out 20 years after 9/11, a terrorist attack.
"This is a reminder: Disasters can happen any time, any place, and we need to be prepared. And we need to use smart thinking," Armitage said. "If we've got a problem, let's use that resilience and strength that America's always had to say, 'If the community needs it, we step up for our neighbors. We create the solutions, we create the systems and we get stronger if we're presented with a challenge.'"
Armitage said U.S. blood centers have not previously had a formal arrangement like BERC to provide blood and have instead relied on goodwill. Oklahoma City Fire Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson said knowing an emergency backup is available amid an ongoing blood shortage offers peace of mind to firefighters who do their best to save lives.
"They could provide the very best prehospital medical care available, they could give that patient the greatest chance of survival, but if that blood is not available or if it is delayed, the outcome for that patient could be diminished," Fulkerson said.
BERC includes blood centers in California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. Participating centers will be responsible for collecting extra blood products on rotating, three-week cycles.
Additional blood products BERC partners collect will return to their general inventories if they are not needed for an emergency. OBI will be pushing for additional donors when it’s the on-call blood center.