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It's hard to know just how to comfort someone who has lost belongings, home or friends in a natural disaster. Have you wondered if you will be caught in the next one? If so, it seems this might be a good time to do a little preventative planning!

There are several disaster planning checklists available from emergency management professionals and national recovery organizations. Insurance companies and the American Red Cross have compiled disaster preparedness guidelines for individuals that have many of these points:

-Be sure everyone in your household knows in advance where to go and what to do in case of a disaster.

-Know where you would seek shelter in your home or in your office in the sturdiest location possible. Most public buildings and schools have designated shelter areas. At home avoid rooms with windows.

-Have emergency supplies on hand during the disaster season. Keep batteries, radios and flashlights in a convenient place.

-Pay attention to weather conditions; don't be caught by surprise.

-Inventory your property using photos and/or videotape and keep a copy off-site.

-After the storm has passed, take steps to prevent further property damage from rain, wind and looting. Don't enter a damaged home or structure unless it's absolutely necessary and then be aware of broken power lines, shattered glass, falling plaster, gas leaks, fire hazards and sharp objects.

As you work on your household's preparedness checklist, gather your family members around. Make sure everyone is familiar with the checklist and feels comfortable with it. Each member should know the location of emergency supplies and how to reach emergency assistance professionals. And then rest easier knowing you and your loved ones are prepared for whatever comes your way!