Nation’s first emergency blood reserve program celebrates one year

SAN ANTONIO – A nationwide partnership is helping ensure blood is stocked up and available for any large-scale emergency, including mass shootings, and a local blood center is helping lead the efforts.

South Texas Blood and Tissue is one of the 33 community blood centers that make up the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps, or BERC.

“It started out with seven blood centers,” said Mohammed Sayed, the blood center’s director of donor recruitment. “(We have) banded together to make sure that we have a steady and stable supply of O-type blood ready to go for assistance in any mass casualty or mass trauma event.”

Each participating blood center is part of a weekly on-call rotation to help reserve blood units.

“For example, South Texas Blood and Tissue, along with others, will set aside those 10 O-positive units and the four O-negative units just to be ready to be transported anywhere that the units are needed for mass casualty (or) mass trauma events,” Sayed said.

The program launched in September 2021.

“As we’re seeing more of the mass casualty events, the mass trauma events, this was more of a response to those types of situations,” Sayed said. “We recognized as a blood industry that having those units on hand literally means the difference between life or death for some of the victims of such unfortunate events.”

BERC has also deployed during natural disaster events.

“It doesn’t just happen from these mass shooting events,” Sayed said. “We also had BERC activated during the tornado outbreak in Kentucky of December of last year as well. In Memphis, September of last year, we did have a response where the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps was activated to help the victims there. Oxford, Michigan, last December was also another incident. The one that hits close to home, of course, is the Uvalde school shooting last May.”

A lot of help is still needed.

On Tuesday, South Texas Blood and Tissue launched a new dashboard on its website showing current blood types and levels.

South Texas Blood and Tissue lists their current blood supply level as “high risk.”

According to Roger Ruiz, senior corporate communications specialist for BioBridge Global, “High risk means that our community has only a two-day supply of blood overall. (This means) that if we did not collect any more blood today, we would only have enough to take care of patients and accident victims for two days.”

For more information on blood donation centers, click here.

To schedule a blood donation visit SouthTexasBlood.org or call 210-731-5590. You also may call University Hospital’s donor center at 210-358-2812 or visit DonateBloodToday.com.

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