If you are like me, your heart is broken for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and their loved ones. I remember vividly touring the destruction left by Tropical Storm Isabel in my district in 2003 and how our community pulled together to help each other in our time of need. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the federal level to provide relief to those in Harvey's path as soon as possible.  

I am also very proud of the Marylanders who have headed to Texas to assist. The Red Cross’ Greater Chesapeake Region has sent more than 100 volunteers to help set up shelters so far. Two Baltimore County paramedics and two firefighters have been deployed. About 30 members of an urban search-and-rescue team based in Montgomery County are on the ground. And the Maryland National Guard is on stand-by should they be requested.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued guidelines for those who want to help. The most effective way to contribute to the relief effort is to send cash to trusted organizations because it is efficient, flexible to use and requires no packaging or transportation.  Organizations on the ground know what they need most and can often buy in bulk, stretching your donation further.

Finally, let this be a reminder to us all that natural disasters can strike at any time. Make sure your family has a plan in place for both sheltering and evacuation. Determine how you will contact one another and reconnect if separated. Make sure your insurance is up-to-date and that important documents, precious photos and valuables are stored safely.The Department of Homeland Security offers some valuable tips and tools here.