Those Valentine's Balloons May Cost More Than Expected

Metallic, helium-filled balloons are popular items on Valentine's Day, but they can cause problems if they're allowed to float away. Pacific Gas and Electric Company posted a reminder Feb. 11 asking its customers to securely tie a weight to all metallic balloons containing helium, because metallic balloons that contact overhead power lines can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage, and potentially result in serious injuries.

Last year, metallic balloons were the cause of 503 power outages across PG&E's service area in northern and central California, disrupting electric service to more than 265,000 homes and businesses, PG&E reported.

The release said that, unlike latex helium balloons, metallic balloons can stay inflated and floating for two to three weeks, so they can pose a hazard to power lines and equipment days after being released outside.

"We want to make sure all of our customers are able to spend a safe Valentine's Day with their friends, family, and loved ones. Safety doesn't take a holiday, even on Valentine's. Please keep metallic balloons away from power lines as they can cause power outages and injuries. Make sure your time is well spent on the 14th by following a few basic safety steps," said Mike Kress, PG&E's senior director of Field Operations.

The release says the number of power outages caused by metallic balloons in PG&E's service area has more than doubled in the past decade and increased by nearly 6 percent from 2017 to 2018. The company is asking that customers make sure helium-filled metallic balloons are securely tied to a weight heavy enough to prevent them from floating away; keep metallic balloons indoors and never permit metallic balloons to be released outside; not bundle metallic balloons together; and never try to retrieve any type of balloon, kite, or toy that becomes caught in a power line.

Posted on Feb 12, 2019