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Amidst graduation season on the Central Coast electricity providers have balloon safety tips for graduates

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- It is graduation season on the Central Coast and electricity providers have balloon safety tips for graduates and families celebrating with helium-filled metallic balloons.

Balloons make almost every celebration fun and festive, but many balloons that float away come into contact with overhead power lines, causing a public safety risk.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) has safety tips for people celebrating this graduation season with balloons.

"In the first four months of 2023, metallic balloons striking electric lines have caused 91 power outages in PG&E's service area, disrupting service to more than 35,000 customers. These power outages can interrupt electric service to critical facilities such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights," said PG & E.

Southern California Edison says the first tip is California law, balloons should be held down by a weight.

Balloon weights can be found at party supply stores.

Second, do not attach metallic streamers, wires, strings, or fabric to balloons.

“Graduation season is a happy time for California students and families, filled with school commencements and celebrations," said Aaron Johnson, vice president for PG&E’s Bay Area Region.

"But the mass balloon releases we often see at graduation ceremonies can quickly put a damper on the fun. When metallic balloons make contact with power lines, they can cause widespread power outages. We urge everyone to celebrate responsibly and secure metallic balloons with a weight," said Johnson.

Metallic balloons are hazardous because they have a silvery coating, which is a conductor for electricity. Balloons that float away and contact power lines, can short transformers, and cause power outages, melt electrical wires, and cause public safety risks.

PG&E said they tend to see an increase in balloon-caused outages during graduation season.

Third safety tip, keep metallic balloons indoors if possible. Never permit metallic balloons to be released outside, for everyone's safety and do not bundle metallic balloons together.

Fourth, do not attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone, and immediately call your electricity service provider.

Fifth, and most importantly 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.

PG&E has other safety tips incase of power outages to stay prepared; keep important phone numbers, such as numbers of hospitals, fire departments, police, friends and relatives in a convenient location in case you need emergency help or other assistance.

Have a backup plan to maintain any medical and life support equipment.

Keep a flashlight with extra, fresh batteries in a convenient place. Avoid using candles because of the fire risk. If you must light candles, use extreme caution.

Turn off heat-producing appliances such as ovens, stovetops and irons during an outage. This practice helps eliminate fire hazards that can occur when power is restored.

Protect sensitive electronic equipment such as televisions and computers with surge suppressors. Unplug any such equipment that is in use when the power goes out.

Ensure that food stays cold by keeping your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. You can keep the refrigerator cold by placing ice in plastic containers inside it. A full freezer stays colder, longer.

Inform service provider if you have a generator, and avoid using it unless you’re sure that it was installed safely and correctly. An incorrectly installed generator can damage your property. It can endanger you, and potentially harm our line workers who may be working on nearby power lines. 

PG&E would like you to understand how power is restored.

After an outage, crews’ first task is to assess damage. In the case of major outages, this assessment can take days. During this phase, service trucks will arrive and provide information to help plan work.

Addressing hazardous situations such as downed wires is priority. Next, the focus is on restoring power to as many customers as possible. Repairs that restore service to critical facilities such as hospitals, water pumping stations, police and fire departments are priority.

PG&E says some neighbor’s may have power while other locations remain in the dark. Different parts of a neighborhood may be on different circuits, and not all circuits are restored, at one time. Sometimes, a problem only affects service to one home.

When you experience a power outage, contact your service provider and report it as soon as possible.

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Article Topic Follows: Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
electrical infrastructure
helium-filled metallic balloons
Pacific Gas and Electric Company
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