A surge of donors at one time can lead to a shortage of donors in the weeks and months afterward.
CLEVELAND -- The American Red Cross has developed a plan to manage the collection of blood in the event of a surge of blood donors in response to a war, terrorist attack or domestic disaster.
Called the Donor Surge Capacity Plan, the Red Cross strategy is based upon experiences with past domestic disasters and acts of terrorism, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
Events of these types have traditionally resulted in immediate and massive outpourings of blood donors.
"Left unchecked, the Red Cross could find itself in a situation where blood collections exceed the current and projected need," said David H. Plate, CEO of the American Red Cross Northern Ohio Blood Services Region.
Also, a surge of donors at one time can lead to a shortage of donors in the weeks and months afterward when the donors normally would have given blood, Plate said.
The Red Cross, which collects blood for about half the nation, was criticized after 9/11 for collecting more blood than it could use and having to dispose of some of it.
The goal is to eliminate any sort of confusion, said Mike Cook, Northern Ohio Blood Services Region spokesman.
What distinguishes this plan from past efforts is that it is a planned approach to managing blood collections pro-actively, based upon needs and inventory storage capacities, Plate said.
The plan includes procedures to cap the amount of blood collected each day in every Red Cross region across the country; procedures to, if necessary, cap the amount of each blood type; and a contingency plan to reschedule a surge of blood donors for future blood drives.
Additionally, in partnership with other members of the American Association of Blood Banks, the Red Cross will quickly determine the medical need for blood, facilitate transportation of blood from one facility to another, if needed; and communicate a common message to the national blood community and the public about the status of the blood supply.
"One of the problems after 9/11, and part of the reason for criticism of the Red Cross, is that the blood collection agencies were not always communicating with each other and therefore were not on the same page," Cook said.
"We want to make sure we collect enough blood -- no more, no less -- to meet the needs of any emergency. We want to limit, if not eliminate, the outdating of blood products. We also aim to make sure that a sudden surge of donors after an emergency does not hamper the Red Cross' ability to collect blood six weeks later," Plate said.
Cook said the Northern Ohio Region continues to be low on six of eight types of blood as of Wednesday afternoon. However, he said supplies are not so low as to cause cancellation of surgeries.