Graduation season in California has begun and it is important that all celebrants understand the public safety risks associated with helium-filled metallic balloons. If your graduation celebration involves balloons, make sure they are secured with weight. Unweighted balloons can float and come into contact with overhead power lines, causing power outages and a risk to public safety.
Ignitions caused by metallic balloons are more and more frequent. There were 21 ignitions in 2019, 22 in 2020 and 31 in 2021: a total increase of 48% compared to 2019. Outages caused by balloons are more frequent in late spring and early summer, when customers celebrate various holidays and special occasions.
“We are seeing a disturbing trend of metallic balloons floating in our power lines and starting fires. This time of year is “celebration season” – Mother’s Day, graduation ceremonies, summer parties, Memorial Day and Father’s Day – and we often see an increase in balloon outages. That’s why we urge everyone to keep the weight attached to the metal balloon if you plan to use them in your celebration,” said Andy Abranches, PG&E Senior Director of Risk Management.
PG&E supports balloon safety legislation
PG&E supports Assembly Bill 847, introduced by Assemblyman Bill Quirk, which requires that by 2026, all balls sold in California be made with a non-conductive material if it comes in contact with overhead distribution lines. More than 90% of breakdowns caused by balloons occur in distribution circuits and would be avoided by the standards implemented by AB 847, significantly improving public safety. In 2021, metal balloons caused 602 power outages in PG&E’s service area, disrupting service to more than 300,000 homes and businesses. The legislation will also improve electrical reliability.
PG&E conducted a demonstration to show what can happen when metal balloons get lost and hit utility power lines.
To significantly reduce the number of balloon failures and to safely enjoy graduations, Father’s Day and summer celebrations, PG&E asks customers to follow these important metal balloon safety tips:
• Buy latex or rubber balloons rather than metal ones.
• “Look up and live!” Be careful and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead power lines.
• Make sure helium-filled metal balloons are securely attached to a weight heavy enough to prevent them from blowing away. Never remove the weight.
• Whenever possible, keep metallic balloons indoors. Never let out metal balloons outside, for everyone’s safety.
• Do not group metal balloons.
• Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite, drone or toy caught in a power line. Leave it alone and immediately call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to report the problem.
• Never approach a power line that has fallen to the ground or is suspended in the air. Always assume that downed power lines are live and extremely dangerous. Stay away, keep others away, and call 911 immediately to alert the police and fire department. You can find more tips at pge.com/beprepared