In his 1962 State of the Union Address, President John F. Kennedy said, “The time to fix a roof is when the sun is shining.”
That message was heard loud and clear by volunteers of the Allstate Foundation and the Points of Light groups, who handed out hundreds of free disaster preparedness kits on a sunny Friday at the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival.
The temperature was perfect, the clouds were fluffy and scarce and the brutal humidity took the day off.
It was hard to imagine that it was about this time last year when a 120-mph freak tornado tore through Revere, damaging as many as 100 homes, ripping trees out of the ground and stunning the Commonwealth.
A FEMA study showed that around 15 percent of Americans are prepared for a natural disaster with a plan and materials on layaway.
“Today’s the day to be talking about disasters, not when they’re happening or after they’ve happened,” said Allstate Agency Principal Andrew Milian Grande. “We can get it all in New England. We just had a heatwave, we got buried in Nor’easters, we had the tornado here last year. Now is the time to get educated and be ready in case the unthinkable happens.”
The volunteers handed out bags with a whistle, trash bags, dust masks, hand sanitizer, first aid kits, water bottles, ponchos, blankets and a flashlight.
“They’re not that much different than camping gears,” Grande said. “This is for people who are hunkered down for a day, maybe two.”
The preparedness event was part of a 14-city tour, aiming to educate the public in case things turn dangerous in a hurry.
“One of the most important things a parent can do is teach their kids how to whistle,” Allstate Foundation Executive Director Jan Epstein said. “Three short blasts is the international alert. There’s something each one of us can do to contribute.”
The theme, “you never know,” was one of empowerment, not paranoia. The line for the kits snaked across Beach Street with people of all ages lining up to get their kits.
“I was here when the tornado hit us,” Mike Grizey said. “I had lived out in Montana for a few years, but I came back home. I was a firefighter out there and I saw some crazy stuff, but nothing like the chaos of that tornado. No one had any idea what was going on.”
Keisha Watson, a camp councilor at the Holland Community Center, tended to her flock of campers who lined up with excitement as they watched a chain of volunteers load up the kits.
“Our job is to keep our kids motivated and educated on all fronts,” Watson said. “They’ll be able to go home and teach their families.”
Watson, now a resident of Quincy, saw the 2014 tornado up close when it tore through a neighborhood around the corner from her old place.
“That was completely unexpected and no one really knew how to handle it,” Watson said. “It was way worse than this winter, because we could prepare for that. It sucks when we have disasters like that, but it’s proof of how strong Boston is. We hold it down with each other and help each other up. It makes you feel better once it’s over to see that.”
While these preparation kits are perfect for any natural disasters, one man in line noted a missing ingredient for other forms of catastrophes: These kits didn’t have any Narcan.
Narcan is a revolutionary opiate blocker nasal spray that will reverse the effects of an opiate overdose without building a tolerance and doesn’t seem to put the hooks in the user, like morphine or Suboxone.
“More people are dying from drugs than anything else it seems,” John Kerivan, 50, of Revere said. “I wish they were giving [Narcan] out here. I’ve lost friends, loved ones because it wasn’t around. It has saved my life a few times. That’s what we need to be prepared for more than a natural disaster.”
The Bay State’s ongoing plague of opiate deaths and overdoses is no new story by any stretch of the imagination.
“I’m not worried about a tsunami hitting here,” Kerivan said. “We’ve already got this wave of drugs that are killing people right now. I’ve never seen it like this. It’s an epidemic and it’s never been this bad before.”