A list of favorite Valentine Day’s gift is likely to include flowers, chocolates, jewelry, lingerie and metallic balloons.

From that the list, only the balloons can cause widespread power outages.

When done with balloons, do not release them. Puncture them several times or cut the knot and throw them in the garbage to keep them from floating away.

In fact, according to the Pacific Gas & Electric Co., metallic balloons caused 456 power outages across PG&E’s service area in Northern and Central California last year. That’s an average of more than one daily.

Altogether, metallic balloons disrupted electric service to more than 371,000 homes and businesses. If that seems like a high number, it is. Contributing to the problem is the fact that, unlike latex helium balloons, metallic balloons can float for two to three weeks – posing a hazard to power lines and equipment long after being released outside.

Balloons Caused 14 Fresno Power Outages Last Year

PG&E says that the top five cities for metallic balloon-caused outages in 2017 were:

  1. San Jose: 25
  2. Fresno: 14
  3. Oakland: 11
  4. Bakersfield: 11
  5. San Francisco: 10

Moreover, balloon-caused outages are on the upswing. They caused 370 disruptions in 2015  and 429 in 2016, according to PG&E.

Safety Tips for Handling Metallic Balloons

The utility company provides the following safety tips for handling 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 done with balloons, do not release them. Puncture them several times or cut the knot and throw them in the garbage to prevent them from floating away.
  • Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon — or any foreign object — tangled in power lines or inside a substation. Instead, 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 away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.

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