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Vending machine in Tokyo park to air emergency info

A vending machine fitted with an emergency broadcast radio is seen at a park in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward on Jan. 18, 2023. (Mainichi/Shohei Kato)

TOKYO -- In a first for the capital, a vending machine with a radio that will automatically relay emergency broadcasts in the event of disasters has been set up at a park in Setagaya Ward.

    Using strong magnets, a specialized radio was affixed to the top of the machine on Jan. 17 by Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Inc., which is based in Tokyo's Minato Ward. The radio will be activated by emergencies such as earthquakes registering 5 or higher on the 7-point Japanese seismic intensity scale, transmitting evacuation and other emergency information from the FM Setagaya community radio station. A station official said they will "work with the ward government to broadcast emergency and other such information, helping to keep the ward's residents safe and calm."

    The broadcasts will be audible at a distance of up to 100 meters. Even in a power outage, the machine will be able to continue to broadcast for around two days using internal batteries. Aside from earthquakes, the machine may be used to transmit information about fires, missing children or elderly people, suspicious persons and more.

    The installation of the radio-equipped vending machine arose from calls by Suzuka Community Co., a real estate company in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, that also manages the local Suzuka Voice FM radio station. The company developed radios to attach to vending machines in 2017, and is calling for community radio stations across the country to install them. As the cost of installing the radios is covered by the companies that manage the vending machines, there is said to be no financial burden on the stations.

    According to the company, as of Jan. 18, around 30 stations nationwide in prefectures including Osaka and Aichi have signed contracts and set up the machines. The company plans to work with stations that have a wider broadcasting range, such as Tokyo FM, and hopes to further increase the number of places where the machines are installed.

    Suzuka Community's President Masahiko Kato said, "I always had an interest in disaster prevention, and wondered about ways for emergency information to be delivered to people walking outside." With the idea to fit speakers onto vending machines, he sought the approval of Coca-Cola Bottlers and soon enough, the suggestion became reality. Kato added, "Because radios convey information quickly, the vending machines will become an asset to save lives."

    (Japanese original by Shohei Kato, Tokyo Bureau)

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