- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Local and state government officials are urging area residents to donate blood now that the region is operating under a heightened terror alert.

Officials said they fear local hospitals that already have a shortage of blood supplies will not be able to respond properly to a possible terrorist strike on the Washington metropolitan area.

“This is a plea for help,” Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said yesterday. “Here in the Chesapeake and Potomac Region, the blood inventory is not high enough to meet even one day’s supply for some blood types. This is not a civic duty in Maryland. At this point, it is an emergency situation.”

D.C. officials said D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey is expected to make a similar plea next week.

“This year takes on some additional urgency with the raising of the terrorist threat level in D.C.,” said Kevin Morison, a police spokesman. He added that there is always a need for donations.

While area shortages are common, there is currently a national blood shortage straining the interregional blood-sharing system, said Tracy M. Laubach, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross.

“Point blank, it’s a matter of community awareness,” she said. “[Blood donations] have got to come from people in our community.”

Trauma centers often run out of O-negative blood first because it’s the universal blood type. Red Cross officials said their stock is running below a half-day’s supply because of heavy demand during July. O-positive and B blood types are also running low.

Type-B blood is found more in the black community, officials said, and the Red Cross needs more black donors. The organization kicked off an outreach campaign with Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon.

“There are people who don’t realize they could save someone’s life,” Miss Dixon said yesterday.

Miss Laubach said the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region, which covers Maryland, the District, Northern Virginia and parts of Pennsylvania, is currently drawing between 60 and 70 percent of its donation target.

The region’s goal is 1,300 donations per day, which would allow it to create a five to seven day reserve of all blood types, she said. “Summer is a tough time,” she said. “We lose high school and college drives.”

Miss Laubach said blood takes several days to be processed, and that victims of September 11 were treated with blood collected before the attacks.

“We fell back on our inventory,” she said of the organization’s response to September 11. “We don’t have that inventory now — all blood is being sent out directly to the hospitals.”

Eligible blood donors must be at least 17 years old, be in good health, and weigh at least 110 pounds. Donors also cannot have received a tattoo in the last year or donated blood in the last 56 days.

The Red Cross asks anyone interested in donating blood to call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.

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