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PG&E says Valentine's Day metallic balloons could be dangerous

Daniella Genovese

PG&E is reminding customers to let their hearts soar on Valentine's Day, not metallic balloons.

On Friday, the San Francisco-based utility warned customers that literal sparks will fly if helium-filled metallic balloons, which are a conductor for electricity, end up crossing paths with any power lines.

The company is urging those to make sure the ballons are properly secured otherwise they have the potential to short transformers, melt electric wires and cause power outages, all of which pose public safety risks.

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"We encourage our customers to celebrate Valentine's Day responsibly by securing metallic balloons with a weight that's heavy enough to prevent them from floating away,' said Walt Posey, PG&E director of electric operations safety.

In 2019, these balloons, which have a silver coating, caused nearly 400 power outages, disrupting more than 179,000 homes and businesses in its service area alone, the company announced.

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To keep the past from repeating itself, and so couples can focus on the sparks that really matter, the company released a list of safety tips.

  • "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 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.

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