FALMOUTH — At a time of year when donations drop off precipitously, a recent blood drive at Central Fire Station resulted in enough pints to potentially save 81 lives.

The drive collected 27 pints of blood, according to Mary Brant, external communications manager of the Northern New England Red Cross Blood Region.

Falmouth Fire Chief Howard Rice said his department generally hosts two blood drives a year, but agreed to hold a third last Friday, not only to help a student at the high school with a class project, but also because “there’s such a need.”

Capt. Mike Carroll, who is in charge of organizing the Fire Department’s blood drives, said the Feb. 16 event was “absolutely a success. It was pretty steady here most of the day” with people showing up to donate.

He said the best thing about participating in a blood drive is “you walk out knowing that you’ve saved lives.”

Carroll, a blood donation veteran, said the process is “painless, the Red Cross takes good care of you when you’re here and it helps a lot of people.”

Both Rice and Carroll also said the Fire Department is duty-bound to hold blood drives. It sets an example for others, both men said, and is another way for firefighters to further serve the community.

Hosting a blood drive, Rice added, is also important because it raises awareness around the need for blood donations and “sends a positive message to the public.”

Brant said only about 3 percent of the population in the U.S. donates blood, which is why “the Red Cross encourages current blood donors to make their donation a standing appointment and bring a friend with them.”

She said giving blood is “a simple four-step process,” which includes a review of the donor’s medical history and a mini-physical. “The whole process takes about an hour from start to finish,” Brant said.

The blood and platelets collected have many uses, she said, including for accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia or cancer.

“Holidays and weather play a major role in the winter slowdown,” according to Brant, which is why “the Red Cross continually works to educate blood drive sponsors, current donors and those who have never given blood that the need for blood is constant.”

“Hospital patients need those lifesaving transfusions no matter what the weather is outside or the time of year. Because blood cannot be stockpiled, severe weather, other types of natural disasters, and flu are a real threat to the blood supply,” she said.

Every blood drive depends on a volunteer sponsor, Brant said, adding, “the Red Cross could not fulfill its mission without them.”

To host a blood drive, the sponsor needs “a suitable location” and must also agree to help recruit donors from within their business or civic organization, as well as from the surrounding community, she said.

And for those who can’t or don’t feel comfortable giving blood there’s still plenty they can do.

“The Red Cross is a volunteer-driven organization, whether you are interested in assisting at blood drives or working in an office setting, we have opportunities for you,” Brant said.

“There are still several weeks of winter weather on the horizon and this has been a particularly bad flu season. If you haven’t donated in the past eight weeks, please make time to give; patients are counting on you,” she added.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or [email protected]. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Donating blood is critical, especially in the winter, when bad weather, holiday travel, and the flu, can often keep donations way down.