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Situational awareness in a disaster is critical to effective response. Disaster responders require timely delivery of high volumes of accurate data to make correct decisions. To meet these needs, we present DistressNet, an ad hoc wireless architecture that supports disaster response with distributed collaborative sensing, topology-aware routing using a multichannel protocol, and accurate resource localization. Sensing suites use collaborative and distributed mechanisms to optimize data collection and minimize total energy use. Message delivery is aided by novel topology management, while congestion is minimized through the use of mediated multichannel radio protocols. Estimation techniques improve localization accuracy in difficult environments.