AUSTIN (KXAN) — Before Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida earlier this week, Austin’s We Are Blood had already sent along 30 donations of O type blood to help support local blood centers on the ground. As Florida blood centers assess damages and blood donation demands, We Are Blood is working to ramp up its local supplies in case further assistance is needed.
Nick Canedo, We Are Blood’s vice president of community engagement, told KXAN Thursday the minimum level of donations We Are Blood needs for local collection supplies is 200 blood donations a day. When a mass casualty event like a natural disaster occurs, We Are Blood works to increase its supplies locally to meet those out-of-state requests while also handling local demand levels.
“When we were looking at collecting extra, it means that we have the flexibility to respond to anything that happens here within our community — a natural disaster, mass casualty shooting or numerous traumas — but it also means that we can lend to other communities, where they are experiencing those types of events,” he said.
Over the past five years, We Are Blood has seen a 30% spike in red blood cell demands and a 40% increase in the need for blood platelets. When funneling resources to disaster-hit communities, Canedo said it’s important for those eligible to donate blood to consider doing so.
“Earlier this week, recognizing the important of helping the Florida community prepare for Hurricane Ian, we sent donations there,” he said. “But that’s why it’s so important that we stress to our friends here in Central Texas about the need for blood donations to strengthen our supply when we lend aid.”
We Are Blood is waiting on further notice from Florida blood supply centers on any additional needs that might pop up as emergency response officials assess current demand levels. Should more resources be needed, Canedo said We Are Blood teams are working on the best ways to transfer blood donations to Florida resource centers.
This isn’t We Are Blood’s first experience with natural disaster impacts, citing winter storms such as the February 2021 ice storm that impacted roadways and airports.
“We had a situation where our operations were shut down due to a natural disaster,” he said. “And unfortunately, we could not rely on aid because of shut down airports, closed roads. In this circumstance, we’re confident that we could send that aid via road travels still, but it is a concern.”
Right now, Canedo said most of the state is reporting damages and assessing operational capacity levels, along with any impacts on community blood supplies. Of the most critical donations are blood platelet supplies, which have a shorter shelf life — only seven days.
Any disruption in platelet resources could harm patients, making timing of the essence, he said.
We Are Blood will host a community donation bus near Gables Republic Square in downtown Austin Friday, located at 401 Guadalupe St. from 1:30-4 p.m.
Anyone interested in donating blood can check their eligibility online, as well as find which donation center or mobile clinic is closest to them. We Are Blood’s online donor portal displays available appointment times at different locations.