By Megan McFarland
With Valentine’s Day approaching, PG&E reminds customers that sparks — and not just the romantic kind — can fly on Feb. 14 if improperly secured helium-filled metallic balloons come in contact with power lines.
Customers celebrating with metallic balloons should ensure they’re tied securely to a weight that’s heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Last year, metallic balloons striking electric lines caused 429 power outages in PG&E’s service area alone, disrupting electric service to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.
“Let your heart soar on Valentine’s Day, but keep metallic balloons close to the ground,” said Pat Hogan, PG&E senior vice president of Electric Operations. “When they come in contact with power lines, these balloons can cause power outages and safety issues.”
In addition to disrupting electric service, metallic balloons contacting power lines can create a public safety risk. In 2015, a metallic balloon striking a power line sparked the Webb Fire, which burned 75 acres southeast of Oroville.
PG&E urges families celebrating with balloons to follow these important safety tips:
- “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.
- Keep metallic balloons indoors, when possible. For everyone’s safety, never permit metallic balloons to be released 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 energized and extremely dangerous. Stay far away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.