BY Q. VERGARA
The earthquakes that hit Southern California during the Fourth of July Weekend got quite a bit of news coverage. And while the information was useful, they kept insisting people should stock up on emergency supplies in the event of a natural disaster. It makes sense to plan ahead and be prepared, but let's be honest, it isn't always practical or realistic.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune (2019), California ranks number one in poverty across the United States. The U.S. Census calculates poverty in two different ways:
based on income, and
based on a measure called “supplemental poverty measure”
This measure allows the census to calculate how many people are living in poverty by how much government programs are assisting low-income families. Using this measure, California's poverty rate sits at a whopping 19 percent (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2019).
If so many families are struggling with day to day necessities, how are they expected to buy anything extra? When you're wondering where your next meal is going to come from and your stomach is touching your back, how realistic is it to buy groceries to set aside for "just-in-case?" When you're already living every day in emergency mode, because your finances do not allow you to breathe, how are you supposed to spend the money you don't have for an imminent hypothetical?
Having money in the U.S. not only provides you opportunity, but allows you to mitigate any damage you encounter when things go awry. Trouble with the law? Post bond and pay a good lawyer. Feeling sick? Fly to where you can get the best medical care and pay for it, no problem. Natural disaster? Pay earthquake insurance, move, rebuild, whatever. When you have money you are no longer at the mercy of your surroundings. When you have money you can be proactive. But when you're living in poverty, you're forced to be reactive and adapt.
Beyond stocking up on food, there are a countless number of other hurdles those in poverty must face if hit with a natural disaster. Hopefully you don't have kids, elderly, or disabled folk in diapers—gotta stock pile that. Hopefully you don't rely on medication—can’t go over your allotments on insurance. Hopefully you have a house or at least enough room to even store the things you keep. God forbid you live on the second floor and have mobility issues. In an emergency, there's no chance in hell you're getting down those stairs. With just a little bit of money, you could have moved somewhere else, bought extras, and paid your way out of trouble to keep you and your family safe.
The super hurricanes you see on TV have been jarring enough. Infants in plastic storage containers, floating in dirty murky water on a stack of pillows and blankets. What would I do in that situation? If it happened tomorrow, I wouldn't have enough money to evacuate.
Not enough money to be awarded the same opportunities to keep my family safe. Not enough money to be safe. That's a scary thought. Having the foresight of emergency preparedness does nothing, because I still need the money to buy shit.
I hope by the time the big earthquake hits, I have enough money in my pocket to keep my family safe. I pray that by the time it hits, I have enough money to keep my community safe.