In emergency situations, the ability to remotely monitor unfolding events using high-quality video feeds will significantly improve the incident commander’s understanding of the situation and thereby aids effective decision making. This paper presents a novel, adaptive video monitoring system for emergency situations where the normal communications network infrastructure has been severely impaired or is no longer operational. The proposed scheme, operating over a rapidly deployable wireless mesh network, supports real-time video feeds between first responders, forward operating bases and primary command and control centers. Video feeds captured on portable devices carried by first responders and by static visual sensors are encoded in H.264/SVC, the scalable extension to H.264/AVC, allowing efficient, standard-based temporal, spatial, and quality scalability of the video. A three-tier video delivery system is proposed, which balances the need to avoid overuse of mesh nodes with the operational requirements of the emergency management team. In the first tier, the video feeds are delivered at a low spatial and temporal resolution employing only the base layer of the H.264/SVC video stream. Routing in this mode is designed to employ all nodes across the entire mesh network. In the second tier, whenever operational considerations require that commanders or operators focus on a particular video feed, a ‘fidelity control’ mechanism at the monitoring station sends control messages to the routing and scheduling agents in the mesh network, which increase the quality of the received picture using SNR scalability while conserving bandwidth by maintaining a low frame rate. In this mode, routing decisions are based on reliable packet delivery with the most reliable routes being used to deliver the base and lower enhancement layers; as fidelity is increased and more scalable layers are transmitted they will be assigned to routes in descending order of reliability. The third tier of video delivery transmits a high-quality video stream including all available scalable layers using the most reliable routes through the mesh network ensuring the highest possible video quality. The proposed scheme is implemented in a proven simulator, and the performance of the proposed system is numerically evaluated through extensive simulations. We further present an in-depth analysis of the proposed solutions and potential approaches towards supporting high-quality visual communications in such a demanding context.