February 9, 2005

Utility reminds customers: Carelessness with balloons can cause service interruptions

ROSEMEAD, Calif., Feb. 9, 2005–With the number of power outages caused by metallic balloons rising sharply in California in recent years and spiking alarmingly in February, Southern California Edison (SCE) is urging customers to take seriously a call by the utility to secure metallic balloons this Valentine’s Day as well as the rest of the year.

Balloon-caused service interruptions rose to 395 in 2004, up from 278 in 2003 and 239 in 2002.  SCE experienced a dramatic 460% increase last February in interruptions caused by metallic balloons compared to February 2003, from 10 to 56.

Metallic and nonmetallic balloons can knock out service when they float between power lines.  The high-voltage conductors can arc across the balloons, burning down wire, damaging equipment, and interrupting service.  Many balloon-caused service interruptions in February are clustered around Valentine’s Day, when many people use the balloons to show their love.  

“We want everyone to have fun celebrating Valentine’s Day, but we also want to recommend that you restrict metallic-balloon use to indoors and that you keep them secured if outdoors with them,” said Ron Ferree, SCE director of grid operations.  “This very preventable cause of service interruptions affected 8,000 of our customers last Valentine’s Day.  With power lines down, traffic signals out, and people trapped in elevators, public safety was needlessly compromised.”

Communities suffering balloon-caused interruptions last Valentine’s Day included Compton, Monterey Park, Cathedral City, Hawthorne, and Inglewood.

“As always, if the power goes out, we’ll work to get the service back as quickly and safely as possible,” said Ferree.  “But we’d like customers to help us keep the lights on by responsibly handling metallic balloons and preventing a service interruption.”

SCE recommends these simple safety rules for handling metallic balloons:

  • Do not attempt to retrieve a balloon—or any foreign object—tangled in power lines.  Instead, call SCE at 1-800-611-1911 and report the problem. 
  • Keep metallic balloons indoors, and never release them outside. 
  • Never attach metallic streamers to any balloon—latex or metallic. 
  • Never bundle metallic balloons together. 
  • Be sure to secure a helium-filled balloon with a weight heavy enough to prevent it from drifting away.  (It is unlawful to sell metallic balloons without a string weight.)
  • Never go near a downed or dangling wire.  Keep others away and contact the police or fire department and call SCE at 1-800-611-1911 for assistance.

More information on safety and a host of other topics can be found at www.sce.com.

A downloadable photo of a metallic balloon near power lines is available at http://www.edison.com/media/image_gallery.asp.

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An Edison International (NYSE:EIX)company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of more than 13 million via 4.6 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within central, coastal and Southern California.