Irene Creates Blood Emergency

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STATE – In addition to widespread flooding and power outages, Hurricane Irene also caused a blood shortage, according to New Jersey Blood Services, a division of New York Blood Center. The supply of several blood types, including O-negative (“universal donor”) blood, which is normally maintained at the three-to-five-day inventory level, has dropped below the two-day minimum level.

“We anticipated the potential effects of Irene, and delivered extra blood in advance to our 200 partner hospitals,” said New York Blood Center Vice President Rob Purvis. “Our first priority remains getting them whatever they need for the care of trauma and cancer patients.”


Due to concerns for the safety of its donors and staff, New York Blood Center closed its donor centers and cancelled all blood drives on Sunday, August 28. “With Labor Day right around the corner, we’re between a rock and a hard place,” Purvis added. “We need the help of our communities to replenish the blood supply.”

The need for blood is constant, whatever the weather or holiday. The shelf life of platelets is only five days; the shelf life of red blood cells is 42 days. About one in seven people entering a hospital needs blood.

“We faced a similar situation after the Christmas Blizzard and January’s constant snowstorms, when cancellations meant the loss of 8,000 units of blood.” Purvis said. “Our neighbors came through for hospital patients then, and replenished the blood supply. We need them to step up again, and schedule an appointment to donate life-saving blood.”

To donate blood or for information on how to organize a blood drive, call 1-800-933-2566 or visit

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