Freedom House Ambulance: The FIRST Responders | A WQED Documentary
Encore broadcasts: Sunday, February 12 at 2:30PM | Thursday, February 23 at 8PM

In 1967, Pittsburgh's inner city produced America’s first EMT service. Comprised solely of Black men and women recruited from the city’s Hill District neighborhood, the paramedics of Freedom House Ambulance became trailblazers in providing pre-hospital and CPR care. Freedom House was initially conceived to respond to the needs of Pittsburgh’s African American community who often times, couldn’t rely on police and fire departments during an emergency. Their ground breaking work became the basis for all paramedics training in the country. However, despite its success - racism and power dynamics in Pittsburgh shut down Freedom House in 1975, leaving its legacy almost lost to history.

This 30-minute documentary explores the rise and fall of Freedom House Ambulance. With rare archival images, the program features the story of inception from an original founder, compelling reflections of surviving paramedics, stories of the world-renowned doctors who trained them, and memories of lifelong Hill District residents.

Watch the documentary:


Annette Banks - Freedom House Ambulance

Original airdate: Jan 11, 2023

WQED-FM's Anna Singer spoke with Annette Banks, producer of the new WQED-TV documentary "Freedom House Ambulance: The First Responders." Airing on Thursday January 12th at 8pm on WQED, the documentary tells the story of the paramedics of Freedom House Ambulance which was initially conceived to respond to the needs of Pittsburgh’s African American community who often times, couldn’t rely on police and fire departments during an emergency. With rare archival images, the program features the story of inception from an original founder, compelling reflections of surviving paramedics, stories of the world-renowned doctors who trained them, and memories of lifelong Hill District residents.

Freedom House paramedic helps to evaluate a patient inside an ambulance.

Freedom House paramedics answer an emergency call at a Pittsburgh high school.

Group of Freedom House men along with founder Phil Hallen outside Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital.

Freedom House Ambulance parked in front of a Pittsburgh high school.

Funding made possible by:

UPMC

Mobile Health Resources/EMSST

Page, Wolfberg & Wirth LLC

Center for Emergency Medicine/ STAT MedEvac