A new series by diplomats from UK Embassies and High Commissions around the world

Tonight the focus in Washington DC will be the Independence Day celebrations on the lawns of the National Mall. You'll be pushed to find a more phenomenal site than this, in the shadow of the White House, with the skies lit up by a firework display.

In the meantime my Consular colleagues in DC and around the US will be on stand by to help the 120 British nationals who get into trouble with the law in any average month (and I mean properly arrested, not fined for jay walking), or the 500 or so who report their passport as lost or stolen.

Lose a passport abroad and the repercussions are serious: it pays not to be casual with this key document. You won't be allowed anywhere near a plane without one. We helped a young Brit who had overindulged at one of the bars in the Georgetown area of DC just hours before his flight home, and mislaid his money and documents. He had neither travel insurance nor close family able to stump up the funds for a new ticket. So we helped track down an elderly aunt (if you have one keep in touch as they do come in handy) willing to finance a return to the UK, an emergency passport and an extra hotel night.

Elsewhere in the US, hurricane season is under way in the Southern states, yet 25,000 Brits arrive in Florida each week come rain, shine or hurricane. It's a good idea to register with us before you go away and let us know where and when you're travelling – that way, it's much easier for us to help you out in an emergency.

If you do find yourself in the vast governmental theme park that is Washington DC, I hope you catch a glimpse of the new president in his first summer in the White House and, in the nicest possible way, that we don't meet. Stay safe.

Pat Sheehan is Vice Consul of the British Embassy in Washington, DC. For travel advice on the US including information on hurricane season preparation, access to the online registration service, and for travel everywhere else on the planet see fco.gov.uk/travel and ukinusa.fco.gov.uk.