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Community Blood Center sends emergency blood supply to Tennessee after tornadoes


Three months ago, the Community Blood Center was one of seven blood banks in the country to start the first ever national emergency blood bank.

Since then, it’s grown in size and been put into use during major emergencies.

The Blood Emergency Readiness Corps or BERC is a first of its kind system in the U.S.

It’s a group of blood centers that take turns keep an extra supply on hand for a week at time.

The Community Blood Center is one of the founding blood centers for the BERC.

The Appleton-based blood center is also one of the first to be activated and send its emergency blood supply out.

Kristine Belanger is the Vice President of Operations and Chief Operating Officer for the community blood center. She says the CBC was able to get an emergency blood supply to Tennessee within 24 hours of the tornadoes last weekend.

“That’s not to say it’s easy. You’re getting blood from Appleton, Wisconsin to Chattanooga, Tennessee on a weekend. It certainly involved some logistics and some pre-planning, but it worked and those units have been used to treat those patients who have been impacted by the tornadoes,” said Belanger.

The CBC was one of four blood centers to send a blood supply to Tennessee.

Since it started in September, the BERC has grown to include 25 blood centers.

The tornadoes were the third time it’s the system has been activated.

“There’s two criteria to basically activate the BERC system. One is a natural disaster that hinders the ability to collect blood. The second is a significant crisis where there are multiple victims and the immediate need for blood is greater than anyone center and satisfy. In these types of situations, the important thing is to have blood available quickly,” said Belanger.

When it’s a blood centers turn to be the emergency bank, the centers need to keep enough blood on hand for their day-to-day requirements as well as another 30 to 50 units to send if an emergency happens.

If there’s no emergency during their week, the extra supply just goes to their regular blood stores.

Blood donation centers across the U.S. are in desperate need of donors.

Bellinger says the nationwide blood supply is critically low, maybe the worst it’s ever been. It’s one of the reason the BERC was started in the first place.

“Locally, we are holding our own, but blood is incredibly perishable. Blood is needed every day. We see in the news how hospitals really very full with patients. One out of every seven patients that are in the hospital are going to require at least one, if not many blood transfusions,” she said.

Belanger encourages people to donate if they can, especially around the holidays.

Anyone who donates with the CBC between December 22nd and January 16th gets a free long sleeve t-shirt.

You can find locations and make an appointment to donate on the CBC website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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