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PG&E to Lovebirds: Make Sure the Only Sparks You Generate Are with Your Valentine, and Not from Metallic Balloons in Power Lines

Prevent power outages by securing metallic balloons with a weight

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— Valentine’s Day is only a few days away and couples across California are busy making elaborate romantic plans that entail . . . staying at home. But if those Covid-19-friendly, stay-at-home plans involve metallic balloons, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is reminding all of its customers to celebrate responsibly. If balloons—particularly metallic ones—come into contact with overhead power lines, they can disrupt electric service, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious injuries. So, make sure to keep your Valentine’s Day balloons inside and weighted down.

Last year, metallic balloons were the cause of 453 power outages across PG&E’s service area in Northern and Central California, disrupting electric service to more than 250,000 homes and businesses. This is nearly a 30 percent increase in balloon-caused outages from 2019.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of balloons floating into our power lines and causing outages, and we suspect that there could be a correlation to the pandemic and the advent of creative at-home celebrations. Metallic balloons are an easy way to make at-home celebrations more festive, but nothing puts a damper on a romantic evening faster than a widespread power outage you, your friends or your neighbors. Keep your holiday safe by ensuring metallic balloons are secured with a weight,” said Ken Wells, Vice President, Electric Distribution, PG&E.

This year, due to the pandemic, only 21 percent of people celebrating Valentine’s Day are planning an evening out, the lowest in 17 years, according to a National Retail Federation survey. As more and more people celebrate at home, creativity is taking center stage and balloons are a fun way to liven up February 14 celebrations. But if used improperly they can certainly put a damper on the fun. Make sure to stay safe and have fun.

In 2020 there were 43 balloon-related outages in Fresno. The top five cities in PG&E’s coverage area that reported balloon-related outages are Bakersfield, San Jose, Oakland, Stockton and San Francisco. Sometimes these outages interrupt electric service to important facilities such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights. You can see for yourself by checking out this video that shows how balloons can create safety issues: PG&E Mylar Balloon Safety

In order to significantly reduce the number of balloon-caused outages and to help ensure that everyone can safely enjoy 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, drone 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

About PG&E

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 24,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.

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