Around 20% of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude six or greater occur in Japan. When the ground shakes, elevators tend to stop, and it can take hours until passengers can be rescued.
Mental Floss reports that policymakers in Japan are considering a new building code that would mandate plumbing and running water in every elevator. According to The Australian, the Japanese government estimates that up to 17,000 people will be stranded in elevators in Tokyo alone when “The Big One” strikes, referring to a huge quake seismologists are almost certain will hit Japan within the coming decades.
Currently, many Japanese high rises have included emergency boxes with bottled water and blankets in elevators, with the boxes doubling as makeshift chamber pots.
The building code’s discussion was first reported by The Japan Times, which says that the discussion was spurred by a magnitutde-8.1 earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan on May 30.
“The earthquake caused about 19,000 elevators to stop in the capital and neighboring prefectures,” the article says. “People were trapped temporarily in 14 elevators and it took 70 minutes to rescue them in one case, ministry and industry officials said.” No deaths were reported from the earthquake.