SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — California’s graduation season has begun and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is warning customers about the public safety risks associated with helium-filled metallic balloons. If your graduation celebration involves balloons, make sure they are secured with a weight. Otherwise they can float away and come into contact with overhead power lines, causing a public safety risk.
In the first four months of 2019, metallic balloons striking electric lines have caused nearly 120 power outages in PG&E’s service area alone, disrupting service to more than 65,000 customers. These power outages can interrupt electric service to critical facilities such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights.
“Graduation season is a happy time for California students and families, filled with school commencements and celebrations. But the mass balloon releases we often see at graduation ceremonies can quickly put a damper on the fun. When metallic balloons make contact with power lines, they can cause widespread power outages and jeopardize public safety. We urge everyone to celebrate responsibly and secure metallic balloons with a weight,” said Mike Kress, PG&E’s Senior Director of Electric Distribution Operations.
Metallic balloons have a silvery coating, which is a conductor for electricity. If the balloons float away and make contact with power lines, they can short transformers, cause power outages and melt electrical wires, causing public safety risks. Last June, more than 6,000 San Francisco customers were without power after metallic balloons released during a graduation ceremony came into contact with overhead power lines. PG&E tends to see an increase in balloon-caused outages during graduation season.
To help ensure that graduation balloon celebrations are enjoyed responsibly, PG&E reminds customers to follow these important balloon 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.
- When possible, keep metallic balloons indoors. Never permit metallic balloons to be released outside, for everyone’s safety.
- 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. Other tips can be found at pge.com/beprepared