The Blood Bank of Alaska (BBA), a nonprofit organization serving Alaska's needs for a variety of blood products, is now 52 years old. This institution has served with distinction, sometimes under adverse conditions of historic proportions.
Beyond its familiar blood products and laboratory activities, the BBA has enjoyed a reputation for maintaining a well-trained and motivated employee base, an inspired donor group and community support for a variety of equipment and logistical needs over these many years. The blood that helped stabilize your friend, relative or even yourself was almost certainly donated by one or more of your fellow Alaskans with the help of the BBA.
The BBA has begun construction of a new facility to meet the growing demands of our population. We have long since outgrown our current facility, now 33 years old. FDA rules limit our ability to respond to growth and development opportunities in the current building. Located at the corner of Airport Heights and DeBarr Road, the new facility will allow for the development of new products and services usually not identified with blood banks. One of our primary objectives is to diversify our operations to expand service to our client hospitals and other institutions in order to keep patients within medical facilities in Alaska, whereas now, many are referred out of state.
In addition to nearly every hospital in the state, we provide for the needs of all military installations and Indian Health Service facilities. The bulk of consumers of our products are cancer and heart patients and accident victims. In addition, the BBA maintains readiness in its role under the state's disaster response plan.
Challenges abound. When Alaska volcanoes become active, our attention is captured and we are reminded of the power of our natural world. Mounts Redoubt, Pavlof and Spurr are well-known to Alaskans and to the Blood Bank of Alaska but for different reasons. Ash clouds that threaten to disrupt scheduled air service to the Lower 48 present our state's only blood bank with sobering considerations, since samples of all blood drawn from donors here are flown Outside for testing. This testing could be performed in our new facility, not only to enhance our blood security but to save on testing and shipping expenses.
Although infrequent, when air service is curtailed, we never know for how long, and are therefore left to manage our in-state stock of blood and blood products under emergency conditions. There have been several occasions in state history in which air service was disrupted and the blood supply here dropped to unacceptably low levels. Fortunately, only once did we nearly exhaust our supplies before air service resumed.
You've no doubt seen and heard our media promotions regarding the Blood Bank of Alaska, its operations, our need for blood donors and our plans for expansion. A volunteer board of directors has, for four years now, pursued a capital drive to fund the new blood center. The end of this effort is in sight but we will need the continued support and participation of the Alaska community to complete the job.
Thirty-seven percent of the American population is eligible to give blood but only 8 percent does. The vast majority of humanity depends upon a relatively few dedicated volunteers to provide blood for their medical needs. One out of three of us will require blood or blood products in our lifetime. It's no different in Alaska but with added challenges as a result of our geographical realities.
We invite you to visit our current facility for a tour, to consider giving blood if you've never done so, and to be aware of our funding drive for the new facility. As many of us who have been associated with this organization have discovered, the level of personal satisfaction is considerable.
Robert Scanlon is the CEO of the Blood Bank of Alaska and lives in Anchorage.
By ROBERT SCANLON