Graduation Balloons Spark Danger for Power Lines

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Metallic balloons are responsible for the majority of power outages in June.

This month means final exams, the start of school vacations, and graduations for many people, but while Southern California Edison (SCE) salutes all the grads, the electric company is also issuing a reminder to residents. June often sees a rise in power outages that easily could have been avoided if metallic balloons were handled more responsibly outdoors.

In terms of service interruptions, June is the busiest time of the year for SCE and, consequently, the most frustrating for customers coping with no electric service, flashing traffic signals, stuck elevators, blank screens, thawed food, and all the other inconveniences and problems caused by extended power outages.

The spike in power outages in June is attributed to wayward metallic balloons that get away from graduation celebrants, many of whom are unaware of the problems that these balloons can cause.   Unsecured balloons can stray or float for miles before hitting high-voltage power lines, causing short circuits, damaged electrical equipment, and service interruptions.

The increase in balloon-related outages typically occurs in May around Mother’s Day, can rise again over the Memorial Day holiday, and continues through June, when many graduation ceremonies and parties are held.

Since January 2000, SCE customers have experienced nearly 3,500 balloon-caused power outages. In 2009, there were 415 balloon-related outages making it the second worst year since 2007 when there were 478 such outages. For June 2009, SCE attributes 87 service interruptions to balloons. In the past three years, during the month of June, metallic balloons have caused 248 outages.

If you give or receive a metallic balloon, follow these simple rules to protect power lines from unintended damage.

  • Never release metallic balloons outside.  Keep them indoors.
  • Never attach metallic streamers to any balloon—latex or metallic.
  • Do not bundle metallic balloons.
  • If you fill your own balloons with helium, be sure to tie them securely to a weight heavy enough to prevent them from drifting away.

Information on metallic balloon safety can be found at

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