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United Blood Services is strongly urging area residents to donate blood to help boost a critically low supply.

United Blood Supply is part of the Blood Systems national network of blood centers. Current system platelet and inventories are 50 percent below normal levels — only about a half-day’s worth — a situation that’s being felt across the country.

Additionally, Hurricane Matthew has significantly impaired the ability for blood centers in the southeast to collect what patients need there. OneBlood, Florida’s largest blood center, has a severe shortage of platelets and red blood cells and has asked UBS and others for help. Unfortunately, UBS doesn’t have any surplus platelets or red blood cells to share at this time.

“We stand ready to help communities affected by this catastrophic storm once we can get our own platelet and blood supply closer to normal levels,” says Pascen Booth, director of regional field operations with UBS. “We want to be sure our supply is strong so we can meet local patient needs first and then we can help communities in other parts of the country.”

Whole blood or red cell donations can last 42 days. A blood donation takes approximately one hour. Eligible donors may donate every 56 days after a whole donation and every 112 after a double red cell donation. Donors can save about 20 minutes by completing their Fast Track Health History the day they donate. It is available at www.unitedbloodservices.org.

Four blood drives are scheduled this month in Artesia:

• Friday, Oct. 21: 2-5: 30 p.m., Senior Center

• Tuesday, Oct. 25: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Yates Petroleum

• Wednesday, Oct. 26: 9 a.m. – noon, HollyFrontier

• Thursday, Oct. 27: 1-4:30 p.m., J&J Home Care

Volunteer blood donors must be at least 16, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and be in good health. Additional height/weight requirements apply to donors 23 and younger, and donors who are 16 or 17 must have signed permission from a parent or guardian.