News Details

SCE warns of dangers of metallic balloons

SCE warns of dangers of metallic balloons

Metallic balloons, popular for parties and celebrations, are extremely dangerous when released--intentionally or not—to drift into power lines.

The metallic coating on Mylar balloons conducts electricity, so when it touches a power line or floats into substation equipment, it can cause a short circuit, leading to downed wires, power outages and fires. Balloons can simply hit a pole and cause an explosion. Crews responding to a balloon twisted in a wire put themselves at serious risk of injury.

Recently, Lakewood experienced a major outage due to metallic balloons making contact with primary overhead lines, causing a loss of power to more than 2,000 residents.

"It’s very important that we keep a good handle on metallic balloons, keep them indoors and keep them tethered,” said Scott Brown, Southern California Edison fire management officer.

Released metallic balloons also reach trees, lakes and streams and end up as litter. Environmental groups have reported they end up in the ocean and are eaten by sea turtles, causing illness or death.

State law requires every metallic balloon sold to be attached to a weight. In addition, in-state metallic balloon manufacturers are required to have a printed statement on balloons warning consumers about the dangerous risk of fire if the balloons come in contact with power lines.

Safety tips for metallic balloons:

  • Metallic balloons should always be tied to a weight. Never remove the balloon weight, or tie them to a person’s wrist.
  • Never attach any streamers to helium metal balloons.
  • Balloons should never be released outdoors.
  • Be sure to cut up balloons before disposing of them properly in the trash. Even a semi-inflated balloon will get into the air.
  • Do not try to retrieve balloons tangled in power lines or electrical equipment.

If you see balloons in power lines or even in a tree, call 911 or SCE at 1-800-611-1911 to report the problem.