The Battle of the Badges, an annual friendly blood donation competition between Southern California law enforcement and fire agencies, is underway with a goal of boosting donations by the general public as well.

The blood drive is the largest among law enforcement and first responders in the nation, officials said. First responders have donated a total of 50,000 units of blood since the contest’s inception in 2007.

“It takes a village,” Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Kristin Crowley said during a Wednesday morning news conference. “And as first responders, we are reminded each and every day of how critical it is to participate in events like this. Every single day, that need for blood is there.”

Crowley added that although the Battle of the Badges is a friendly challenge, she went on the record predicting an LAFD victory.

Last year’s event yielded 2,500 units of blood, and this year’s goal is 3,000 pints. The contest is geared toward law enforcement, but officials encouraged members of the public to also participate.

“It can be any given day where unfortunately a family member of yours may need this blood,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said.

More than 80 blood drives are scheduled for the contest through March 31. Those who are eligible to donate blood can schedule an appointment via the Blood Donor App, visiting redcrossblood.org and entering sponsor code BOB23 or calling (800) RED CROSS.

“This is a very difficult time and challenging time across the country to collect blood because of winter storms and illnesses,” said Joanne Nowlin, CEO of American Red Cross’ Los Angeles region. “And LA is often looked to — to provide the blood not only for our community but around the country.”

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore, serving as the chair of this year’s event, said his officers are ready to “roll up their sleeves.”

“I look forward to us getting into it in the next three months, and filling that desperate need with this critical life-saving blood,” Moore said.

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