Emergency Toilets in ElevatorsAccording to reports from Kyodo news agency, Japan’s Infrastructure Ministry is planning to equip the country’s elevators with a novel feature – toilets. The idea germinated from practical concerns after dozens of people were trapped inside elevators for over an hour after a powerful 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck islands south of Tokyo on June 6, 2015.

Over the years, there has been a significant growth in the number of high-rise buildings in Japan. The country has about 620,000 elevators and more than 150,000 are in Tokyo. The earthquake brought more than 19,000 elevators in the city and nearby places to a standstill. Most of these devices automatically halted at the nearest floor and opened their doors, but 14 were stranded between floors. People were trapped inside 14 elevators and it took about 70 minutes to rescue them.

Earthquakes are common in Japan as major tectonic plates and their boundaries surround the country. When big earthquakes strike, elevators in skyscrapers stop working. In a 2011 quake, people were stuck in elevators for almost nine hours. Considering the practical problems that such incidents cause, the Japanese government began exploring the new option of installing drinking water and toilet facilities inside these accessibility systems.

The idea of installing toilets, drinking water and other amenities would definitely make stranded passengers more comfortable. Some local governments in Japan have already begun installing portable toilets inside elevators. Newly-installed lifts feature small seating areas for the country’s growing number of elderly people.