PHILADELPHIA – Hurricane Irene could affect blood collections along the east coast at a time when the nation’s blood supply is already low. The Red Cross is urging those who are eligible to give blood prior to the storm’s arrival.

Donating blood now, before the storm, will help ensure blood is available in the aftermath of Irene should conditions prohibit people from traveling to blood collections.

It’s the blood that is already on the shelves that helps save lives before, during and after a disaster. The Red Cross is still working to stabilize the blood supply after our summer shortages. If people will donate blood now, before the storm, then blood will be available in the aftermath should conditions prohibit people from traveling or coming to blood drives.

Across the country, blood centers are struggling to keep pace with demand. Nationwide, around 44,000 blood donations are needed each and every day to meet the needs of accident victims, cancer patients, and children with blood disorders. These patients and others rely on blood products during their treatment. When disaster strikes, this need does not diminish, even though blood donors may find it difficult or impossible to get to a convenient donation opportunity. Also, if collections are negatively impacted by a disaster, the long-term care needs of these patients could be affected.

Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in PA and NJ), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. Please bring your Red Cross blood donor card or other form of positive ID when you come to donate.

To find an American Red Cross blood drive near you, please call 1-800-RED CROSS or visit today to make an appointment to donate blood.