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In Case of Emergency

Two vending machines in Ako, Japan, are programmed to provide supplies in the event of an earthquake.

A map of Japan and vending machines side by side with Japanese characters against a backdrop of seismic waves.

© Robbin Lee, Oleksandr Khoma, Pytyczech/; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Two vending machines in Japan are designed to automatically unlock and allow people to access food and drinks for free in the event of a powerful earthquake.

The machines were installed recently in Ako, a city that experts say is vulnerable to a strong earthquake in the near future. Each contains about 300 soft drinks and 150 food items and nutritional supplements. The machines also have lockers containing emergency supplies such as portable toilets.

Most of the time, the machines sell their products like any other vending machines. They will unlock if an evacuation order is issued in response to an earthquake or another disaster.

The machines were installed by a company called Earth Corp. through an agreement with the Ako city government. They are the first of their kind—but possibly not the last. Located in a region called the Ring of Fire, Japan is prone to earthquakes and has taken many precautions to shore up public safety.

“We’d like to spread [the machines] throughout the country,” a representative of Earth Corp. told Japanese news outlet The Mainichi.

A city official told The Mainichi, “We expect that the stockpile will lead to the safety and security of our citizens.”

Did You Know?

© takasuu—iStock/Getty Images Plus

Earthquakes can cause other natural disasters, including tsunamis, which are fast-moving waves of water that are sometimes tall enough to engulf buildings. Japan, an island nation, has an advanced tsunami warning system.

Minutes after an earthquake is detected (and sometimes even before anyone can feel the ground shaking), the system issues a warning that appears on TVs and cell phones. This first alert lets the public know that a tsunami may occur. After experts have had time to gather more detailed information, the system sends a second alert with an estimation of the tsunami’s height and potential to cause damage. 

Machine Yearning

Japan has more vending machines per capita than any other country. There are millions of them—and they sell a huge variety of items.

Want to sample them? Check out the slideshow.

© gyro—iStock/Getty Images Plus; OiMax (CC BY 2.0); © slyellow/; © Yorozu Kitamura/; © Tupungato/

Prone to Earthquakes

A world map with tectonic plates labeled and the Ring of Fire highlighted.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Japan is located in the Ring of Fire, making it more prone to earthquakes than other parts of the world. You can read more about the Ring of Fire at Britannica School.






: the ability to stay calm in difficult or dangerous situations

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