AT THE centre of a large office in west London sits a raised circular platform with several seats. Screens in front carry international news superimposed on a huge atlas. From here rescue missions are co-ordinated by International SOS (ISOS), the world’s largest travel-security firm, which counts nearly two-thirds of the Fortune Global 500 companies as clients. It operates 26 other centres across the world. The firm says they have never been busier.

ISOS has responded to emergencies large and small. They range from giving timely advice to the parents of a child in Nigeria who had swallowed a coin to evacuating corporate and NGO clients from Burundi during last year’s coup attempt. Torn between a medical airlift and potentially risky surgery in a local hospital, the child’s parents were counselled by ISOS doctors to let nature take its course, which it duly did. The Burundi operation was trickier.

“When the president [Pierre Nkurunziza] started talking about serving an unconstitutional third term,” explains Tim Willis, a former army officer who is the firm’s European security director, “we thought ‘look out’ and began sending…Continue reading