Secure balloons during lockdown birthday, graduation fetes—PG&E

/ 08:48 AM June 16, 2020

SAN FRANCISCOWith the advent of shelter-at-home celebrations, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) reminds its customers to celebrate responsibly if their birthday drive-bys or social-distancing graduation ceremonies include metallic balloons.

Metallic balloons have a silvery coating, which conducts electricity. If the balloons make contact with power lines, they can short transformers, melt electric wires and cause power outages, all of which pose public safety risks.

“Between remote work, Zoom calls, home schooling and frequent handwashing, the last thing customers need are rogue balloons causing power outages. Graduation season is upon us, and PG&E is asking customers celebrating with metallic balloons to ensure they’re secured with a weight that prevents them from floating away and hitting a power line,” said Walt Posey, PG&E’s director of Electric Operations Safety.

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During the first four months of 2020, metallic balloons striking electric lines caused 94 power outages in PG&E’s service area alone, disrupting electric service to more than 44,000 homes and businesses. During the recent Mother’s Day weekend, for instance, a wayward balloon took 3,500 customers out of power in Vallejo for more than an hour. Another Mother’s Day outage in Pleasant Hill knocked out power to 4,700 customers. That’s a lot of sad Moms. As customers look for creative ways to celebrate milestones during the pandemic, metallic balloons are becoming increasing prevalent during drive-by parades and other social distancing get-togethers.

Here’s a sobering example of what can happen when metallic balloons become loose and hit utility power lines:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jzefJfBbNA

In order to significantly reduce the number of balloon-caused outages and to help ensure that everyone can safely enjoy graduations, Father’s Day and other shelter-at-home celebrations, PG&E reminds customers to follow these important safety tips for metallic balloons:

  1. “Look Up and Live!” Use caution and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead electric lines.
  2. 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.
  3. When possible, keep metallic balloons indoors. Never permit metallic balloons to be released outside, for everyone’s safety.
  4. Do not bundle metallic balloons together.
  5. 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.
  6. 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
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TAGS: celebration safety, electrical accidents, fire danger, Metallic balloon danger, power outages
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