Posted on May 10, 2013

Wayward Mother’s Day Metallic Balloons Pose an Electrical Danger

Valerie Lee Ow, co-owner of J. Miller Flowers and Gifts in Oakland, reminds customers to be responsible after purchasing metallic balloons. (Photos by David Kligman.)

Springtime is a season for celebrating. And for those who choose helium-filled metallic balloons as part of their Mother’s Day and graduation gift giving, PG&E stresses caution.

The utility is urging customers to securely tie a weight to all metallic or Mylar balloons to prevent them from floating away.

Metallic balloons that contact overhead power lines can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious personal injuries. See a Currents video on the danger the balloons can cause.

Last year, metallic balloons that drifted into PG&E power lines caused nearly 300 outages, impacting electric service to more than 150,000 PG&E customers throughout Northern and Central California.

Securely tying a weight to all metallic or Mylar balloons is the best way to ensure they don’t fly away and drift into power lines.

The East San Francisco Bay Area had the highest number of outages (35), impacting nearly 24,000 customers. And June had the most balloon-related outages, most likely due to graduation celebrations.

Just last month, nearly 5,000 PG&E customers lost power when an errant metallic balloon hit a power line in San Francisco.

In order to significantly reduce such outages, and so everyone can safely enjoy their celebrations, PG&E reminds customers to follow these important safety tips for metallic balloons:

  • “Look Up and Live!” Use caution and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead electric lines.
  • Make sure helium-filled metallic balloons are securely tied to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Never remove the weight.
  • When possible, keep metallic balloons indoors. Never release them outside.
  • Do not bundle metallic balloons together.
  • Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone and immediately call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to report the problem.
  • Never go near a power line that has fallen to the ground or is dangling in the air. Always assume downed electric lines are live. Stay far away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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