Don’t let metallic balloons take the spark out of Valentine’s Day

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Southern California Edison (SCE) is reminding Californians that metallic balloons, often a part of these special celebrations, can cause power outages if not disposed of properly.

Helium-filled metallic balloons can drift and come in contact with high-voltage lines where electricity can arc across the balloons, cause short circuits, burn wires and interrupt service. Resulting power outages may last from a few minutes to several hours, lead to inoperable stoplights and possible traffic problems, and could even put a damper on Valentine’s Day festivities.

“SCE wants everyone to enjoy celebrating Valentine’s Day, but we also want to recommend that people keep metallic balloons indoors. If they do take them outdoors, customers should keep them tightly secured to prevent them from drifting into power lines and causing outages,” said James Kelly, SCE senior vice president, Transmission and Distribution.

Since January 2000, SCE’s local electrical grid has experienced nearly 3,500 balloon-caused power outages. Last year, there were 415 balloon-related outages making it the second worst year since 2007 when there were 478 outages. These outages led to more than 9.4 million minutes of service interruption for customers last year.

SCE recommends these simple safety rules for handling metallic balloons:

  • Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon – or any foreign object – tangled in power lines.  Instead, call SCE at (800) 611-1911 and report the problem.
  • Keep metallic balloons indoors, and never release them outside.
  • Never attach metallic streamers to any balloon – latex or metallic.
  • Be sure to secure a helium-filled balloon with a weight heavy enough to prevent it from drifting away. (It is unlawful to sell metallic balloons without a string weight.)
  • Never go near a downed or dangling wire. Anyone finding a downed or dangling wire should keep others away. Immediately call SCE at (800) 611-1911 to report the problem or contact the police or fire department.

Information on metallic balloon safety can be found at

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