As drive-by celebrations replace traditional social gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re reminding customers how to celebrate safely with helium-filled foil balloons while avoiding balloon-related power outages.
Over the past month, FirstEnergy has seen a spike in outages caused by balloons entangled in electrical lines and equipment. Across our service territory, dozens of balloon-related outages – more than one a day – have disrupted power and created a safety hazard.
“Many people are celebrating birthdays and graduations by decorating their vehicles and homes with signs and foil balloons to honor their loves ones during this unprecedented time,” said Lisa Rouse, director of outage management at FirstEnergy. “By educating the public about the safety concerns that arise when using foil balloons outdoors, we can help keep our local communities safe while reducing the risk of any electric service disruptions.”
The metallic coating of a foil balloon conducts electricity and poses a risk to the electric system when released outdoors. Balloon-related outages typically increase during warmer weather when more celebrations occur outdoors.
To help ensure drive-by celebrations don’t contribute to increased outages and electrical hazards, customers are encouraged to keep the following balloon safety tips in mind:
- Use caution and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead electric lines.
- Securely tie helium-filled metallic balloons to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Do not remove the weight until the balloons are deflated.
- Puncture and deflate metallic balloons once they are no longer in use because they can stay inflated for several weeks. Never release them into the sky.
- Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone and immediately call FirstEnergy at 888-544-4877 to report the problem.
- Stay far away from a downed or low-hanging power line. Always assume downed lines are energized and dangerous. Report them ASAP by calling 888-544-4877 or 911.
For more information on outdoor electrical safety, click here.