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Effective communication is critical to the success of response and rescue operations; however, unreliable operation of communication systems in high-stress environments is a significant obstacle to achieving this. The contribution of this article is threefold. First, it outlines those common characteristics that impair communication in high-stress environments and then evaluates their importance, specifically in the underground mine environment. Second, it discusses current underground mine communication techniques and identifies their potential problems. Third, it explores the design of wireless sensor network based communication and location sensing systems that could potentially address current challenges. Finally, preliminary results are presented of an empirical study of communication using a WSN constructed from commercially available wireless sensor nodes in an underground mine near Parkes, New South Wales, Australia.