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This paper presents the results of an independent evaluation of four different commercial wireless mesh network systems using IEEE 802.11 radios in the context of small-scale, rapid deployment scenarios in public safety and emergency applications. To ensure repeatability and fairness in our evaluation, we designed and built a conducted wireless evaluation platform which provides a controlled test environment. Using our conducted test-bed, we investigated the performance of the different wireless mesh products in terms of their singlehop and multi-hop capacity under varying link conditions, and their ability to handle link failures. We have also conducted an outdoor multi-hop capacity test with the wireless mesh products, and compared the outdoor performance with the lab-based results. The test scenarios and the corresponding results demonstrate the flexibility and advantages of our conducted test-bed in fleshing out the performance differences of the evaluated mesh products. From our test results, we observed the differences in the MAC auto-rate behaviour of the different mesh network systems, as well as the throughput performance stability in one of the vendor's mesh routers. Our results also show that the multi-hop throughput performance of an unplanned (or rapid) network deployment can be substantially lower (ranging from 44% to 67%) compared to that of a planned network deployment.