May 5, 2005

Releasing balloons outdoors can cause power outages

ROSEMEAD, Calif., May 6, 2005—Southern California Edison (SCE) is encouraging everyone this weekend to hold on their party balloons as they honor their mom on Mother’s Day.

“Drifting helium-filled balloons, both latex and metallic, often can float into power lines, which can cause power outages and on rare occasions injure people on the ground,” said Walt Johnston, SCE’s vice president for power delivery.   “Sure, celebrate Mother’s Day, but don’t ruin the occasion by releasing balloons outside and having them knock out power.”

Balloons drifting into SCE equipment and power lines have caused hundreds of power interruptions in recent years.  Just this past Monday, for example, metallic balloons knocked out two circuits in Redondo Beach, bringing down wires and interrupting power for nearly 4,000 customers.  While some of the customers had service restored within a few minutes, some were without power for more than 10 hours.

In 2004, SCE recorded nearly 400 balloon-caused power outages within its 50,000-square-mile service area.  Nearly one-third of these avoidable outages occur in May and June, when Mother’s Day and graduation ceremonies occur.  These outages create safety problems when wires come down, requiring costly utility repair work, knocking out street signals, disrupting lives and businesses, and interrupting service for thousands of customers every year.

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

A downloadable photo of a metallic balloon near power lines is available at

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An Edison International 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.