On May 1, Bloodworks Northwest joined 30 blood centers across the nation to form the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps (BERC), a first-in-the-nation partnership among community blood centers around the country to ensure blood availability whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
Bloodworks’ joining BERC means (1) that local donors can directly help when mass casualty events like natural disasters or mass shootings occur elsewhere in the United States, and (2) that when needs in our community exceed our local supply, other blood centers will be prepared to quickly transport blood to our region.
Bloodworks Northwest is the sole provider of blood to more than 95% of the hospitals in Western Washington and Oregon. As part of the BERC partnership, Bloodworks commits to storing extra units – approximately 15 units of O negative and O positive blood – on a rotating “on call” schedule to be available for BERC members for immediate emergency need.
Bloodworks will be on call for seven days during a three-week rotating schedule beginning in June. If the units are not used, the units will be put back into the local inventory for distribution.
“Bloodworks Northwest stands ready to assist other blood centers if called upon to provide emergency shipments to help communities in need near and far,” said Curt Bailey, President and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest. “This underscores the importance of having a strong inventory of blood available at all times in order to respond immediately when natural or man-made disasters happen in our local community and beyond.”
However, with regional blood supplies hovering around a 1-2 day supply, would there be enough locally- sourced blood if the Pacific Northwest was faced with its own mass casualty event?
“Our community is running dangerously low on the platelets and Type O blood needed to supply local hospitals, and straining our ability to provide transfusions for every cancer and surgery patient who need them,” said Bailey.
“If a mass trauma event were to happen today, we would not have enough blood available to help everyone who needs it. It is vital people donate blood to support everyday needs of patients as well as unforeseen emergencies.”Curt Bailey, Bloodworks Northwest President and CEO
Before BERC, community blood centers facing a mass need event have relied on the goodwill of other blood centers to send additional units, which is sometimes limited or uncertain. With the country experiencing an ongoing nationwide blood shortage, creating an emergency blood reserve allows Bloodworks and other BERC members to know exactly how much extra blood they can count on.
To date, the program activated to support a mass shooting at a grocery store near Memphis, TN, a mass shooting at a school near Detroit, MI, and a mass casualty event brought about by a series of tornadoes throughout the Midwest. The recent shootings last weekend in Buffalo, Texas, and California highlight the need and effectiveness of an emergency reserve system.
In Washington and Oregon, 1,000 donors per day are needed to keep the blood supply at a safe and reliable level, since every two seconds, someone in our region needs blood. It does not take much for the supply to drop: one snowstorm, one tragedy, one heatwave can send it back to an unsafe level.
To donate blood, schedule an appointment at Bloodworksnw.org or 800-398-7888. Same day appointments are available. There is an especially high need for donors heading into Memorial Day.
About BERC: The Blood Emergency Readiness Corps was founded in 2021 to meet the immediate transfusion needs of hospitals and their patients when faced with a large-scale emergency situation that requires blood transfusions. To learn more and see a list of participating blood centers, visit bloodemergencyreadinesscorps.org.
To learn more about how blood emergencies on the ground at Bloodworks, listen to this episode of our podcast, Bloodworks 101, with Bloodworks Executive Vice President of Blood Services Vicki Finson titled “We Weren’t Going to Be Able to Help Them.”