SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is reminding customers that sparks – and not just the romantic kind – can fly on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) if improperly secured helium-filled metallic balloons come in contact with power lines.
Metallic balloons have a silvery coating, which is a conductor for electricity. PG&E officials said this week that if the balloons float away and make contact with power lines, “they can short transformers, melt electric wires and cause power outages, all of which pose public safety risks.”
In 2019, metallic balloons striking electric lines caused 376 power outages in PG&E’s service area alone, disrupting electric service to more than 179,000 homes and businesses.
“What’s the single worst thing that can happen on Valentine’s Day? Getting dumped. But a close second is a widespread power outage. We encourage our customers to celebrate Valentine’s Day responsibly by securing metallic balloons with a weight that’s heavy enough to prevent them from floating away,” said Walt Posey, director for PG&E’s Electric Operations Safety.
Progress has been made recently in reducing the number of mylar-balloon related outages recently. In the Fresno area, there were 27 mylar-related outages in 2019, a drop from 43 the year before. In Madera/Merced there were 21 mylar-related outages in 2019, a drop from 34 the year before.
In order to significantly reduce the number of balloon-caused outages even more, and to help ensure that everyone can safely enjoy their Valentine’s Day, 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 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 safety tips can be found at pge.com/beprepared.