Current research in crisis management research tends to overemphasise formal organisational modes and does not adequately support ground level teams. Following a case study, we identify five main problems experienced by rescuers at the start of an emergency intervention. The work shows a clear need to focus research on ground level communication and local coordination activities and to develop flexible communication tools and flexible coordination structures. We argue that robustness, flexibility and self-organisation are key issues in designing emergency communication systems. We give two simple examples of communication tools that can support flexible and robust communications.