Crisis support teams guide survivors and bereaved through the traumatic first hours and days after disaster. Comprised largely of volunteer social workers, they focus on providing practical, pragmatic support: ‘orienting’, rather than ‘counselling’ service-users. This article examines the generally unacknowledged contextual challenges of crisis support work in the UK. In time-compressed circumstances making sense of ‘major incidents’ requires imaginative and reflexive assessment. First, incidents sit within a potentially wide variety of inter-related dimensions, generating demands across geographical, jurisdictional and organisational boundaries. Second, crisis response occurs within processes of ‘sense-making’ that often involve controversy and social conflict. Third, intra and inter-organizational factors may pose significant difficulties for crisis support responders. Notwithstanding an overdue official recognition of the ‘rights’ of disaster victims, other recent developments - within social care, private sector ‘customer care’ and in policing and security - present under-researched challenges for crisis support teams. It is suggested in conclusion that the role and operation of crisis support teams are overdue for review. Issues pertinent to such review are offered.