COLUMBUS -- The American Red Cross is facing a critical blood shortage and is issuing an emergency call for eligible blood and platelet donors of all blood types to give now and help save lives.

Blood donations have fallen short of expectations for the past two months, resulting in about 61,000 fewer donations than needed and causing a significant draw down of the Red Cross blood supply. The shortfall is the equivalent of the Red Cross not collecting any blood donations for more than four days.

"It's crucial that people donate now to meet the needs of patients every day and to be prepared for emergencies that require significant volumes of donated blood," said Rodney Wilson, communications manager of the Central Ohio Blood Services Region of the Red Cross. "Every day, blood and platelet donors can help save lives, and right now these heroes are needed to give as soon as possible."

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). The Red Cross has added more than 25,000 additional appointment slots at donation centers and community blood drives across the country over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors. Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce the time it takes to donate.

Blood shortages often worsen around Independence Day due to many fewer volunteer-hosted blood drives at places of work, worship or community gathering, and this year is no exception.

Nearly 700 fewer blood drives are scheduled during the Independence Day week than the weeks before and after the holiday.

Overall, the summer months are among the most challenging times of the year for blood and platelet donations as regular donors delay giving while they vacation and participate in summer activities. In a recent survey of Red Cross blood donors, more than 73 percent indicated vacation plans this summer, many of them occurring the weeks before and after Independence Day.

New donors and those who haven't given in a while are especially encouraged to roll up a sleeve and help save lives. Nearly one-third fewer new blood donors came out to give last summer than during the rest of the year due in part to schools where blood drives are held and where new donors give being out of session during the summer months.

Because of generous donors, the Red Cross is able to provide blood products to patients like 8th grader Grant Fischer of Columbus. Grant was diagnosed with T-cell ALL, a form of cancer, in October 2014. He received a bone marrow transplant in March 2016. Grant needed countless blood transfusions during all his treatment and is now cancer free. He may not be alive without blood and platelet donors.

Every two seconds in the United States blood and platelets are needed to respond to patient emergencies, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant procedures, and patients receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease. The Red Cross must collect nearly 14,000 blood donations every day for patients at approximately 2,600 hospitals across the country.

Upcoming blood donation opportunities July 5-29:

Coshocton County

July 10 -- New Castle Church, 32421 U.S. 36, Walhonding, 2 to 8 p.m.

July 20 -- Warsaw Camp and Retreat Center, 818 Main St., Warsaw, 1 to 7 p.m.

Guernsey County

July 11 -- Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center, 1341 N. Clark St., Cambridge, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2 to 7 p.m.

July 11 -- Guernsey County Department of Job & Family Services, 324 Highland Ave., Cambridge, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

July 14 -- Guernsey County Senior Center, 1022 Carlisle Ave., Cambridge, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Harrison County

July 12 -- Scott Memorial United Methodist Church, 817 East Market St., Cadiz, 12 to 6 p.m.

Muskingum County

July 12 -- Community Bible Church, 195 West Second St., Frazeysburg, 1 to 6 p.m.

July 15 -- Unity Church of the Nazarene, 3095 Maysville Pike, Zanesville, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

July 17 -- Trinity United Presbyterian Church, 830 Military Road, Zanesville, 1 to 7 p.m., and Adamsville Community Center, 8200 Madison Road, Adamsville, 2 to 8 p.m.

July 18 -- Adams Lane Care Center, 1856 Adams Lane, Zanesville, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

July 21 -- Colony Square Mall, 3575 Maple Ave., Zanesville, 1 to 7 p.m.

July 22 -- South Zanesville UMC, 53 E. Main St., Zanesville, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

July 25 -- New Concord Church of Christ, 133333 Maple Lane, New Concord, 1 to 6 p.m.

July 29 -- North Terrace Church of Christ, 1420 Brandywine Blvd., Zanesville, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tuscarawas County

July 12 -- St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 121 S. College St., Newcomerstown, 2 to 7 p.m.

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families.

The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.