What happens when you call 911? Meet Oakland's first responders

May 22, 2013

A year ago, KALW’s Ali Budner met Sharena Thomas and her friend Lesley Phillips, two women from East Oakland who say the 911 emergency response system in their neighborhood is broken.

In trying to find a possible solution, they co-founded group called The People’s Community Medics. Its goal is to train citizens in basic first aid so they can help people as they wait for emergency responders.

“There’s been times I’ve seen where it’s taken so long that people have actually put their loved ones in the car, bleeding to death, trying to get them to the hospital," says Sharena Thomas. "I’ve seen that!”

Reporter Ali Budner and her editor Martina Castro decided to dig deeper into why the community medics feel like they can’t rely on a system so many of us take for granted. In this excerpt from her upcoming documentary, Ali starts by tracing the path of a 911 call.

Click the audio player above to listen to the story. 

This piece is part of Budner’s upcoming documentary: “The Race to an Emergency,” in which she follows both first responders and community members to try and understand where and why communication breaks down.