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Celebrate safely with party balloons

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. Here are some tips on the proper handling and disposal of these balloons.

“The metalized nylon in these balloons makes them good conductors of electricity,” explains Matt Conklin, operations manager and safety coordinator at Clay Electric Co-operative. “If these balloons come into contact with electrical equipment, they can cause power outages, fires and injuries.”

In September 2016, metallic balloons made contact with a power line in Arcata, Calif. 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 in the nearby area for several hours.

“Many safety experts recommend metallic over latex balloons because they are less of a choking hazard. However, using metallic balloons improperly can pose other safety hazards,” explains Molly Hall, director of the Safe Electricity program. “Fortunately, with a few simple precautions, metallic balloons can be used without any problems.”

Metallic balloons are filled with helium and are made of a type of nylon with a thin external metal coating. The metal coating can conduct electricity. If released, metallic balloons can come into contact with overhead power lines or electrical substations and can cause power outages and fires.

In order to prevent risks when celebrating outdoors, tie down your balloons. It is also a good idea to use a weight 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 both can pose electrical hazards.

If a metallic balloon gets caught in overhead wires or substation equipment, do not try to retrieve it. Call your local electric utility 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.

“When planning your next outdoor celebration, take precautions with metallic balloons,” advises Conklin. “Never intentionally release metallic balloons in the air and take extra care that your balloons remain secure.”

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