MOUNTAIN COMMUNITIES — More metallic balloons are sold for Valentine’s Day than any other holiday and, not surprisingly, it’s also around this time of year that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) sees an uptick in outages caused by metallic balloons drifting into overhead power lines.
Last year, metallic balloons caused 415 power outages across PG&E’s service area in Northern and Central California, disrupting electric service to more than 210,000 homes and businesses.
Unlike latex helium balloons, metallic balloons can stay inflated and floating for two to three weeks – posing a hazard to power lines and equipment even days after being released outside.
“On Valentine’s Day, nothing puts a damper on a romantic evening faster than a widespread power outage. If your February 14 plans include metallic balloons, please keep them tied down with a weight. If they contact our overhead lines they can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious injuries,” said Jeff Deal, PG&E’s Vice President of Electric Distribution Operations.
Here’s a video example of what can happen when metallic balloons hit utility power lines.
In 2022, PG&E supported a new metallic balloon law that will enhance the safety of PG&E coworkers, customers and hometowns. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 847, which allows Mylar or metallic balloons to be sold in California only if those balloons do not cause electrical faults when contacting overhead distribution lines.
The new legislation bans sales of non-compliant celebratory balloons after Jan. 1, 2027.
In the meantime, 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 done with balloons, do not release them. Puncture them several times or cut the knot and throw them in the garbage to prevent them from floating away.
- Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon — or any foreign object — tangled in power lines or inside a substation. There can be risk of electrocution. Instead, leave it alone and call PG&E at 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 away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is a combined natural gas and electric utility serving more than 16 million people across 70,000 square miles in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit pge.com and pge.com/news.
Check out this short video on the further dangers of Mylar balloons!