When Hurricane Sandy descended on Long Island, New York, last October, Jeff Stern, 53, principal of Eagle Business Solutions, faced the same inconveniences as many of his neighbors. Power in his area was out for nine days, and there were gas shortages that led to rationing, making it tough to get around.

Nonetheless, Stern didn’t shut his business down for a single day, thanks to smart disaster planning at the Port Jefferson consultancy he started three years ago after a long career in banking. Before the superstorm hit, he’d topped off his gas tank and filled up an extra 20-gallon tank, so he could get around (and charge up his phone). He’d made it a habit of backing up his data offsite using Carbonite, a low-cost system, so he had no worries about losing it. He’d identified an internet café where he could work on his laptop in such an event – and promptly set up shop there the next day.

“I was always in touch with clients,” he says.

Many business owners were not as well-prepared for a storm of the hurricane’s magnitude and have lost business while restoring operations. Business interruption insurance can help ease the pain in major disasters, but it won’t help you if your out-of-state or international clients get frustrated because they can’t reach you.

While they may sympathize with your situation, being caught unprepared can ultimately damage your relationships with them and hurt the reputation of your business. This is especially important for those who have started their businesses in mid-career and don’t want to lose valuable time.

“You can’t run your business without a disaster recovery plan,” says Larry Newell, a manager in St. Louis-based public accounting firm Brown Smith Wallace’s risk services practice.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much time to put together a disaster preparedness plan. Do it now, so you don’t find yourself scrambling to get back up and running if your area is hit. Here are the questions to ask yourself to determine the steps you need to take.