You know those helium-filled Mylar party balloons that you get at the grocery store for birthday parties? They might light up your kids’ faces, but they could also end up turning out the lights.
According to Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), Illinois’ largest public utility, Mylar balloons that are released from outdoor birthday parties, graduations and weddings have a tendency to wander gently into the sky — and right into power lines.
In a news release warning customers of the dangers of Mylar balloons released outside, ComEd said that so far this year, the festive floaters have caused power outages affecting roughly 11,000 customers, which is significantly higher than the 6,700 customers that were affected by balloon-related outages during the same period last year.
The utility said the number will rise even more this summer, as the temperature increases and more parties are held outside, unless families take precautions and secure balloons that are used outdoors.
ComEd said that when the metallic skin of a Mylar balloon contacts a power line or a part of substation equipment, it can create an electric surge that may lead to a short-circuit, power outage or even a fire.
To help cut down on power outages from Mylar balloons, ComEd recommends that you take a few precautions:
1. Make sure balloons are tethered or secured and attached to weights or sturdy structures at all times
2. When you’re done with balloons, puncture them to let the helium escape and dispose of them properly
3. You should always assume that power lines are live; make sure that you, your belongings and anything you are carrying are least 10 feet away from power lines at all times
Under no circumstances should you try to recover a balloon or other toy that’s become entangled in an overhead power line; instead request assistance by calling ComEd at 800.334.7661
“ComEd Warns: Balloons Can Cause Power Outages,” Buffalo Grove Patch, May 5, 2012.