Oklahoma Blood Institute joins nation’s first emergency blood reserve partnership


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Blood Institute is joining a first-in-the nation partnership to ensure blood is available when and where disaster strikes.

“Imagine part of yourself standing guard for the nation for the week,” said Dr. John Armitage, with the Oklahoma Blood Institute. “I want to give to that.”

Leaders from the Oklahoma Blood Institute announced the Blood Emergency Readiness Corps. or “BERC.”

It’s a first-in-the nation partnership between seven blood centers in five states; Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.

Every few weeks, blood centers rotate having supply “on call” to send out should something like a natural disaster or mass shooting occur.

“We wouldn’t be asking for this, we wouldn’t be creating this if we didn’t see as experts in the field that we have a problem,” Armitage said. “Our old safety net is frayed, there are holes and we’ve got to patch them.”

OBI is no stranger to calling for help.

In the past year, KFOR has covered the urgent, critical need for blood as the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed donations.

So the question remains – how do we have the supply to give to others?

“We don’t want to carve into our own supply,” said Armitage. “We’re actually asking donors to come in and give us a bit extra. It’s a mutual insurance program and we’re pretty confident that we’re going to get more blood because people have this new way of giving.”

Emergency management, along with public health and safety experts, say it’s about being prepared for the worst.

“It’s critical to our public health system to ensure that we have that supply and it’s ready when it’s needed,” said Dr. Lance Frye, Oklahoma Commissioner of Health. “You can’t plan for it, it just happens.”

Should no emergency occur during the “on call” period, the blood supply will be returned to the OBI.

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