Winter weather hampers blood drives

AccuWeather's Bernie Rayno speaks with American Red Cross Spokesperson Rodney Wilson about the effects the recent winter storms have had on blood drives across the U.S. and what you can do to help.

Video Transcript

BERNIE RAYNO: Record-breaking cold and severe winter weather across the country forced the cancelation of so many blood drives. Rodney Wilson is an American Red Cross spokesperson. He joins us via Skype today. Good afternoon, Rodney, and I know there's lots of things we can do to help. But first I want you to explain how severe weather like winter storms and flooding impact the blood supply.

RODNEY WILSON: Yeah, thank you. Well, weather really gives us some big challenges when it comes to blood collections. Just like anything else in life, the best laid plans can be thrown out the window when severe weather hits. That happens with blood drives. We plan blood drives months in advance, and a severe storm- whether that's a winter storm or a flood, a tornado can wipe out a community- can change the plans for that community.

It's what we tend to see is severe weather cancels blood drives. Places that would otherwise be hosting aren't able to when it's snow and ice. It might be because schools closed during flooding. Then we have issues with maybe whole communities aren't able to host blood drives. So it creates quite a challenge for us.

BERNIE RAYNO: And, Rodney, why is it important to donate blood year-round?

RODNEY WILSON: Yeah, it's so important that we have a consistent, stable blood supply, not just whenever you might hear that there's a blood shortage. When people hear that there's a blood shortage, they typically will respond to that, and we appreciate that. But don't wait until you hear that there's a blood shortage to donate blood. If more people committed to donating blood on an ongoing basis, every few months, then that would make sure that the blood supply is stable, that we can eliminate issues with shortages and ensure that every patient can get the blood that they need, regardless of the season or the weather.

BERNIE RAYNO: And what kind of precautions- virus precautions- are you taking to ensure the safety of donors?

RODNEY WILSON: That's a great question. We want everyone to know that blood drives right now- there are many safety precautions that the Red Cross has implemented. So blood drives are a clean, safe, and sterile environment for you. Everybody gets their temperature checked before they enter, including our own staff and volunteers. We use hand sanitizer throughout the process. We wipe down every donor touch point between donors. And that we are social distance at the blood drives. The beds and the health history stations are further apart than you would see during normal times.

BERNIE RAYNO: And what can people do to help?

RODNEY WILSON: People can donate blood. And if they're not able to donate blood, then spread the word. Encourage other people to donate blood. Or consider hosting your own blood drive. You could host a blood drive at your- your church or your school or your business. And invite the people that work there to come to your blood drive. And that could result in dozens of blood donations available for patients.

BERNIE RAYNO: Rodney Wilson, American Cross- Red Cross spokesperson, thanks for joining us. Donate blood. It saves lives.