With everything else you've resolved to do this January, please add one more critical item to the list: Give blood, if you're able.

There is a desperate need for donors to share this precious gift of life. Blood supplies nationwide drop dramatically during the holidays and harsh winter months. This year is no exception nationally, though Utah is fortunate that its supply held steady during the Christmas season, when people are less likely to donate.Being in such fortunate circumstances gives Utahns a chance to help others who face serious shortages, which includes much of the country. Brutal storms in the northern, central and southern United States have led to acute shortages. Twelve American Red Cross areas have issued urgent appeals for assistance, with less than one day's supply on hand.

Blood banks typically maintain three to four days of blood and blood products, but about half of the country's outlets have less than a single day's inventory. That eliminates elective surgeries and poses apotential tragedy for anyone with critical needs.

Severe weather has not only slowed donors, it also has thwarted efforts of well-supplied blood banks in the Midwest and Northeast to share their stockpiles with other needy areas.

Utahns have neither shortages nor inclement conditions. This is an ideal time to provide for others what many cannot give themselves. All blood types are needed, but particularly O-positive and O-negative. The former is the most common type, while the latter is the universal donor.

To make it convenient, Red Cross donation centers in Murray, Orem, Ogden and St. George will be open for extended hours for the next week. Blood drives also are regularly scheduled at businesses, churches, schools and other organizations. For information on where to donate, call 1-800-448-3543.