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An estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood. Less than 10 percent of that population actually do.
When there’s a mass-casualty event—like Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida that has killed at least 17 people—blood banks spring into action. But it’s not necessarily to meet the immediate need, but to replenish supplies.
OneBlood, the regional blood bank, said Wednesday that it rushed additional supply to Broward Health North Hospital and Broward Health Medical Center, which received victims from the shooting. While the immediate blood needs were met, OneBlood said there’s a need to replenish O-negative blood supply, the universal blood type and is used to treat trauma patients.
Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016, where 50 people were killed, including the gunman, thousands of people in Florida and other states donated blood.
In the week after the attack, OneBlood took in 28,000 pints of blood; the agency's average weekly volume is about 18,000 pints, [OneBlood CEO Don] Doddridge said. It was the biggest response since the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001.
Doddridge says the surge of donations allowed the agency to recover from regional slack in blood donations leading up to the attack. OneBlood had sent out a call for donations June 9, three days before the Pulse shooting— particularly for O-negative blood, which can be used in patients with any blood type, yet is present in only 7 percent of the population.
Following last year’s massacre at a country music festival in Las Vegas, long lines formed to donate blood.
According to the American Red Cross, although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood, less than 10 percent of that population actually do.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.