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Metallic balloons: electrical danger?

  • Posted: 04.26.2017
image features photo of a Mylar balloon bouquet

Most people associate balloons with special occasions, celebrations and joy. However, without proper precautions, a simple party supply can cause power outages and even explosions. Metallic balloons, if accidentally or purposely released, can cause big problems if they make contact with overhead power lines or substation equipment.

According to Safe Electricity, that is because the metalized nylon in the balloons makes them a good conductor of electricity. The balloons can cause power outages, fires and injuries if they come in contact with electrical equipment.

Two disasters caused by metallic balloons

  • In September 2016, KRCR ABC 7 reported a power outage after metallic balloons made contact with a power line. The accident took place in Arcata, California, during a high school homecoming parade. A handful of balloons that were accidentally released during the parade caused the transformer to explode and the pole to fall to the ground. Power was lost to almost 3,000 consumers for several hours.
  • Another accident took place in San Francisco in August 2016, when a single metallic balloon became entangled in overhead power lines. CBS KCBS reported that more than 6,000 utility consumers lost power as a result, but utility crews restored power in less than an hour. Luckily, in both cases, no one was injured.

How to prevent problems with balloons

  • Tie down and weight balloons to keep them secured.
  • Never tie a metallic ribbon on your balloon, and never tie a metallic balloon to a child’s arm. These situations can pose electrical hazards. 
  • If a metallic balloon gets caught in overhead wires or substation equipment, do not try to retrieve it; instead, call your local electric cooperative for assistance. 
  • After celebrations have ended, make sure that these balloons are disposed of properly. Puncture a hole in your balloon and deflate it so it cannot float away after disposal. Consider creatively reusing metallic balloons as gift wrap, scrapbooking, or a craft project.

To learn more about electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.