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Are you prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster?
YEI demonstrates why a Go-Bag, a bag packed with essential items, is an absolute necessity to have accessible at a moment’s notice. 



We live in a very uncertain world where disaster strikes without notice.  This year, alone, there has been a cyclone in Madagascar, floods in South America, and even an earthquake in South Africa, which fortunately did not harm anyone.  Think of the recent fires that swept through Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay displacing thousands.  Floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, landslides, civil war, political upheaval, strikes and conflict all mean that you could possibly have to leave your home in a moment’s notice. 

You may recall the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.  This disaster was initiated primarily by a tsunami, followed by an earthquake.  The Japanese who were affected by this were unable to return to their homes immediately.

This begs the question – are we prepared to leave our homes at a moment’s notice?  How do we react in an emergency?  Do we have the presence of mind to collect everything that is vital – do we even have the time to do this?  Are our important possessions in one place?

A YEI reader, Dawn, recollects:   “When my house burnt down in 2011, I had seconds to decide what to take with me.  In the end I left with nothing. I wish I had had a Go-Bag and an Exit strategy in mind.  It would have saved me a lot of trouble and related hassles.”



What is a Go-Bag?

A Go-Bag is a bag packed with essential items, and needs to be readily accessible for use in the event of an emergency evacuation of one’s home.  A Go-bag should be durable and easy to transport – it could be a small back pack that is easy to carry. 

It is a good idea for each family member to have a go-bag.  These bags should include items like lifesaving prescriptions, food, water and extra clothing to get you through the first few critical days.

Why should you prepare a Go-Bag?

In an emergency situation, it is possible that help could take some time to arrive.  Most governments have systems in place to assist their citizens when disaster strikes, but sometimes help can take days to arrive.  It is, therefore, suggested, that one has at least 3 days supply of basic foods with you. Think of foods that are easy to carry as you don’t want to load up your bag to the point that you cannot carry it.


The majority of seniors take some sort of medication on a daily basis.  Suppose your medication was lost in a disaster and you were unable to get to a pharmacy to replenish the medication.   You may be in need of high blood pressure medicines or a diabetic may need insulin for diabetics.  The consequences of not having your medication available could be dire.  It is advised to have at least 3 days’ worth of medication in your Go Bag to get you through the worst until help arrives.

Important documentation

The thought of replacing all of your important documentation is mind-boggling.  Don’t let this happen.  Dawn says:  “I fortunately had put most of my important documents in plastic sleeves and although they were a bit damaged from the water when we had the fire, they were essentially intact and usable.  I was so relieved that after living through the trauma of a house fire, that I did not have to spend days in queues to get documents back.  I often wonder what would have happened if my documents were destroyed”.

It is essential to make copies of important documents, have them certified at your nearest police station and then place them in plastic sleeves in your Go Bag.



What should go into your Go-bag?

Dawn recommends that you put the following items into a backpack or other easy carry case, and keep it in an easy-to-reach location, like an entry-hall closet or under your bed.  Don’t forget to pack as lightly as possible and ensure that you put a label on your bag with your name, address and cell phone number, plus the name and phone number of your next-of-kin.  Don’t forget to include enough supplies to survive on your own for a while – three days minimum and if you can manage to carry it – then seven days worth of food is a good idea.

  • A flip-file with copies of important documentation in plastic sleeves (passport, ID, bank cards, birth certificates, health insurance card, marriage certificates, proof of residence, tax records)
  • Torch with batteries
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Phone charger
  • Manuals and extra batteries for any devices you use
  • Whistle or bell
  • Dust mask
  • Pocket knife
  • Emergency cash in small denominations
  • Lighter and matches
  • Sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, and a warm hat
  • Local and regional map
  • Water and food (snacks and one or two bottles per person)
  • Notepad, pen, permanent marker and tape
  • Photos of family members and pets for identification purposes
  • List of emergency phone numbers including contact information for your doctors and pharmacy
  • Health information card including a list of allergies to any specific food or drug (especially antibiotics)
  • Extra prescription eye glasses, hearing aid or other vital personal medical items such as mobility aids
  • Prescription medication and first-aid supplies
  • Toiletries, such as toothbrush, toothpaste, waterless hand cleaner plus toilet roll
  • Extra keys to your house and vehicle
  • Wetwipes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Any special-needs items for children, grandchildren, other senior members of the family or disabled family members (although it is recommended that each member of the family have their own Go-bag).


Go-Bags for Pets:

  • Sturdy leashes and pet carriers. (A pillowcase is a good option for transporting cats and other small animals.)
  • Food, potable water and medicine for at least one week
  • Non-spill bowls, manual can opener and plastic lid
  • Plastic bags, litter box and litter
  • Recent photo of each pet
  • Names and phone numbers of your emergency contact, emergency veterinary hospitals and animal shelters
  • Copy of your pet’s vaccination history and any medical problems


Whatever you do, whatever your age, you need to prepare prepare and have a plan because who knows what can happen when an emergency happens or disaster strikes?


Article by Angela Watkins, You’ve Earned It / YEI


  • Liz says:

    Excellent advice, I’m going to do mine tomorrow

  • Lucille says:

    Great idea in these troubled times

  • Phia Visser says:

    Thank you. Very usefull. I will do my bag asap.

  • SOS Survival Product says:

    Very informative article. Thanks for sharing these emergency survival kit essentials for seniors! What important documents do you recommend bringing?

    • Angela W says:

      The article recommends the following:
      A flip-file with copies of important documentation in plastic sleeves (passport, ID, bank cards, birth certificates, health insurance card, marriage certificates, proof of residence, tax records)

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