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SACRAMENTO, Calif. February 12, 2019 – Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and many customers will celebrate with festive bundles of metallic balloons. Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) urges customers to securely tie a weight to all metallic balloons containing helium to prevent them from floating away. Metallic balloons that contact overhead power lines can disrupt electric service to an entire neighborhood, cause significant property damage and potentially result in serious injuries.

Last year, metallic balloons were the cause of 503 power outages across PG&E’s service area in Northern and Central California, disrupting electric service to more than 265,000 homes and businesses. Unlike latex helium balloons, metallic balloons can stay inflated and floating for two to three weeks – posing a hazard to power lines and equipment even days after being released outside.

“We want to make sure all of our customers are able to spend a safe Valentine’s Day with their friends, family and loved ones. Safety doesn’t take a holiday, even on Valentine’s. Please keep metallic balloons away from power lines as they can cause power outages and injuries. Make sure your time is well spent on the 14th by following a few basic safety steps,” said Mike Kress, PG&E’s Senior Director of Field Operations.

Metallic balloons impacted 3,971 customers causing 20 sustained outages in 2018 in the Sacramento Division (Sacramento, Sutter, Yuba, Yolo, Colusa and eastern Solano counties). In the Sierra Division (Nevada, Placer, El Dorado and Sierra counties), 354 customers lost power due to nine outages ultimately caused by metallic balloons last year. In the Stockton Division (San Joaquin, Amador and Calaveras counties), metallic balloons had a significant impact on customers casing 14,831 customers to lose power in 32 outages.

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The number of power outages caused by metallic balloons in PG&E’s service area has more than doubled over the past decade and increased by nearly 6 percent from 2017 to 2018. In order to significantly reduce this number and to help ensure that everyone can safely enjoy their Valentine’s Day, PG&E reminds customers to follow these important safety tips for metallic balloons:

  • “Look Up and Live!” Use caution and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead electric lines.
  • Make sure helium-filled metallic balloons are securely tied to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Never remove the weight.
  • When possible, keep metallic balloons indoors. Never permit metallic balloons to be released outside, for everyone’s safety.
  • Do not bundle metallic balloons together.
  • Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone, and immediately call PG&E at 1-800-743-5000 to report the problem.
  • 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. Other tips can be found at com/beprepared