With Valentine's Day helium-filled metallic balloons the rage today, PG&E is urging celebrants to hold onto them or secure the balloons so that they don't float upwards and possibly hit overhead electric power lines.
"There's always plenty of electricity in the air on Valentine's Day, but we need the public's help to secure metallic balloons to make sure they stay close to loved ones and away from power lines," said Jason Regan, PG&E's director of Emergency Management and Response.
"Mylar balloons can cause energized wires to fall to the ground, posing a serious safety risk," he added. "So with Valentine's Day and other celebrations, it is important to take precautions for those including them as part of their festivities."
(PG&E recommends that weights be tied to all metallic balloons containing helium to prevent them from floating away. Metallic balloons that contact overhead power lines can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious injuries.
Last year, metallic balloons that drifted into PG&E power lines caused more than 300 outages, affecting electric service to nearly 165,000 homes and businesses throughout Northern and Central California. Sometimes these outages interrupted electric service to important facilities, such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights.
The number of power outages caused by metallic balloons in PG&E's service area has more than doubled over the past decade, Regan said. In order to significantly reduce this number and to help ensure that everyone can safely enjoy their Valentine's Day, PG&E asks the public 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 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.