Special drinks vending machine in Kyoto subway station
Free drinks from a beverage vending machine? It's more likely than you think - in Japan, that is. Specially labeled vending machines equipped with battery backup are programmed to offer victims of natural disasters life-giving water and soft drinks at no charge.
Major earthquake, flood, storm or other natural disaster in your area? Out of water and the roads are blocked? Japan's famous vending machines have got you covered. Following a mutually beneficial agreement between Japanese vending machine companies and local municipalities, specially marked beverage vending machines that dispense drinks for free have been set up in public areas.
Subway and train stations are the first to receive these special drinks vending machines with community centers and other places people gravitate to in emergency situations may follow.
In the city of Kyoto, for example, 35 special beverage vending machines have been set up in all 31 of the city's subway stations. In the event of a major emergency that results in a power outage, the machines automatically switch to battery power and the "free drinks mode" can be activated by a local staffer.
Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone nations and the country's emergency response system, while admirable by most standards, still has room for improvement. One of the biggest problems encountered in past disasters is the difficulty in providing clean drinking water to isolated towns when damage to water pipes shuts off the water and blocked access roads impede supply trucks. A single, fully-stocked beverage vending machine can hold up to 600 bottles, so having them on location to dispense free refreshments could potentially be a lifesaver!
The program benefits both the vending machine business and local authorities. The former receive access to public areas where their soda machines had previously been prohibited and the free drinks angle paints them as good corporate citizens.
Governmental authorities receive a cut of the vending machines' revenue in normal operation and in the case of a major disaster, they have an instant method of providing water and drinks to the population. (via The Black Ship)