Deluge of Blood Donors Triggers Response by OCD

Unprecedented numbers of donors almost outstrip inventories of supplies and tests

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CEO SUMMARY: It’s the story behind the story. Even as overwhelming numbers of people nationwide rushed to donate blood following September 11’s terrorist attacks, blood bankers in many cities found themselves rapidly depleting their existing inventories of supplies and test kits. One of the nation’s leading suppliers of blood banking products recognized the challenge and went into overdrive.

IT WAS UNPRECEDENTED in the nation’s history. In the hours following the terrorist attack, incredible numbers of people arrived at blood centers to donate blood, both in the New York City and across the country.

“The volume of blood donations doubled and tripled overnight,” stated Mary Richardson, Director of Public Relations for Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics (OCD), a Johnson & Johnson company in Raritan, New Jersey. “Many blood banks were struggling to cope with the growing numbers of people arriving to donate blood.”

Surge Of Blood Donors

People at OCD recognized that problems created by the overnight increase in blood donors would not be limited to New York City and Washington, DC, sites of the terrorist attacks. “From the earliest moments of the unfolding tragedy, we knew that blood banks would play a key role in supporting treatment of victims,” noted Richardson.

Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics is one of the nation’s major suppliers of products
used in blood banking. It is the largest source of HIV and hepatitis screening tests used by blood banks. Upon learning of the terrorist attacks, OCD quickly convened a crises management team to respond to the situation.

Determining Critical Needs

“Our first steps involved assessment,” explained Richardson. “We tried to determine which blood centers were in the most critical need of support and supplies. As this was done, our staff began calling blood centers directly to offer help, ascertain their particular needs, and develop a response.

“As it became clear that blood banks throughout the United States needed an emergency resupply of inventory items, our next challenge was to get product into their hands,” she added. “Normally we ship products by air, but with airplanes grounded by the national emergency, we turned to ground transport wherever delivery times made this a feasible option.”

The first trucks to roll were sent into New York City. Since the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan were closed immediately after the attacks, OCD contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and obtained permission for its trucks to enter the city, since they were carrying “essential medical supplies.”

Resupply Blood Centers

“The more challenging problem was how to resupply blood centers all across the country,” noted Richardson. “To accomplish this, we utilized J&J’s corporate jet, which had received a government designation known as ‘life guard.’ Blood bank supplies were transported by helicopter from our facilities in Allentown, Pennsylvania to the Trenton/Mercer Airport.

“On its way westward across the country, our flight made stops in Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon to deliver essential supplies to those blood centers in most critical need,” she said. “At every step in this process, federal officials were extremely helpful in expediting our shipments.”

“It is difficult to tell how long blood donations will stay above their normal level during the coming weeks,” observed Richardson. “We are working closely with blood centers to provide them with the products they need to maintain their services.”

People With A Mission

OCD’s response to the blood banking industry’s needs following the terrorist attacks provided a welcome outlet for people dismayed by the human carnage of the events. “Because we are located so close to New York City, many of our employees have friends and relatives directly touched by this tragedy,” noted Richardson.

“Those personal relationships pro- vided extra motivation. Our people have worked incredible hours to respond to this emergency and make a contribution,” she commented. “It’s a reminder that the products and services we provide directly affect people’s lives for the better.”

One Of Many Good Stories

The OCD story was repeated by laboratory industry vendors in many parts of the country. Time did not permit THE DARK REPORT to contact other diagnostic companies and gather their unique stories. The proximity of OCD to both terrorist attack sites in New York City and Washington, DC provided an additional dimension to their experience. It’s another example of the cooperative effort that became frequent and obvious in our industry during those days following the tragedy.

Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics Reacts to Lab Needs

SEVERAL LABORATORIES LOCATED near the sites attacked by terrorists use testing instruments manufactured by Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics (OCD), a Johnson & Johnson Company.

“The Pentagon has OCD equipment operating on site,” stated Mary Richardson, Director of Public Relations for OCD. “Also, the laboratory at Arlington Hospital has OCD instruments. In both cases, we shipped them additional supplies and reagents. These labs maintained testing operations throughout the crisis.”

OCD also supported its hospital lab customers in New York City, including an unusual floating laboratory. “The navy sent their big hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, into New York Harbor,” stated Margaret Ellis, Vice President, Sales, at OCD. “In coordination with this move, we shipped Vitros® clinical chemistry slides and other supplies directly to the dock in New York harbor.”

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