are blood donations immediately after a crisis helpful?

In the hours after the Orlando mass shooting hit the news, people reportedly began lining up to donate blood.

Is this actually helpful, or do hospitals ordinarily have enough blood on hand to deal with ~50 shooting victims at once?

The Orlando hospitals directed blood donors to blood banks to make donations. More blood in the system is always good.

Blood can’t be stored indefinitely, so it’s possible that the donations will be discarded before they’re ever needed.

During a mass causality event on site supplies can be depleted rapidly. By the time people are lining up around the block the crisis should be over.

But donations are needed to replenish the depleted supplies, no?

While it’s true blood products have a lifespan consider that the American Red Cross states “Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.”

Round that to 40,000 units over a population of 330 million. That gives a typical usage in the Greater Orlando area of 242 units a day.

The Canadian Blood Services states a car crash victim needs roughly 50 units of blood. Let’s cut that in half and apply it to the 50 victims in Orlando --> 1250 units. That would monopolize the Greater Orlando blood supply for 5 days.

Given blood can be stored for ~ 6 weeks (not platelets though) a surge in donations doesn’t necessarily mean throwing the blood into the trash.

The mass of donated blood in Orlando may be largely wasted, but there will be need for specific blood types and it’s difficult to predict the total needs, the shooting victims aren’t the only people in need of blood. Blood drives that aren’t associated with a particular event are often needlessly wasteful, but this is the kind of situation where an excess of blood donations is good policy.

When you are at the point that you have people waiting on line for hours you have gone well beyond the need for replenishment. I’m sure those in charge wish that some would come back in 6 months when everyone has forgotten.

I’m on the prohibited list so no lines for me.

Perhaps the hope is that people will think, “That wasn’t very painful. I should do this again.” And some will become regular donors.

I recall reading that the Orlando hospitals made a request for donors, and even waived the restriction on gay donors.

However, the response was a bit more than they needed:

I heard that too. Then I heard it wasn’t true. Do they have the authority to waive restrictions put in place by the FDA? BTW gay men are not restricted if they have been celibate for a year. The rule changed a few years ago. However they still think I might have Mad Cow Disease so I can’t donate.

Nice to see that a couple of Chick-Fil-A restaurants in Orlando opened on Sunday (they usually don’t) to make food to hand out to blood donors.

I’ve read that the need for transfused blood is way down, due to changes in medical procedures and standards.

I bet they’re right, and some will.

I donate blood fairly regularly. A few years ago, a friend asked me to do something when I was scheduled to donate, and I said, hey, how about you come donate blood with me, then we go do whatever. He’s been a regular donor since.

Also, is there any reason that blood donated in Orlando has to stay in Orlando? Put it on a refrigerated truck and send it where it’s needed.

I don’t think it has to stay anywhere.

I donate a lot (in the Upper Midwest). I got an e-mail a couple of days after I donated the last time saying that my donation went to somebody in California.

Whoever needs it is fine with me.


On 9/11 I was trapped in Manhattan and figured I could kill time and be a good boy scout by donating blood. There was a long line and eventually someone came out and said (basically) there are a lot of fatalities but not many injuries here, we only need rare blood types right now. The real need will be weeks down the road when everyone who was moved to donate blood today is ineligible so please come back some time over the next month and become regular donors.

So it depends on the crisis.

according to this article, one person used 90 units of blood.

That makes me really wish I could be a regular donor. I doubt they will change their ruling anytime soon to allow me.

Yeah, that made me cry. This too.

I was wondering what was going on Sunday at the theme parks in Orlando. Was WDW open as normal?