Taking a little weight off is usually considered a good idea.
But not when it comes to metallic balloons. And not when the power outages caused by them are at an all-time high because they’re not weighted or are released outdoors.
It’s dangerous too.
Ali Zadeh, the owner of Port Restaurant and Bar in Corona del Mar, can vouch for that.
Zadeh’s restaurant suffered a small fire when a floating metallic balloon hit power lines near it last year around Valentine’s Day. He and 2,990 other Southern California Edison (SCE) customers in his area also lost power.
Outages like the one Zadeh experienced are becoming far too common. SCE is on an all-time pace this year for balloon outages with 390 even before June, usually the worst month with Father’s Day, graduations and weddings. The most for an entire year is 714 in 2012.
As for his property damage, Zadeh seemed more relieved that no one was injured.
“It ended up causing $10,000 in damage,” said Zadeh, who thought the balloon was released during a Valentine’s party at a nearby theater. “It’s an unfortunate thing, but it happens.”
Serious injuries and even death can result if balloons are not secured to a weight as required by California law and released outdoors. SCE recorded all-time highs for balloon outages for the months of March (89), April (86) and May (122) and is 50 percent ahead of last year’s 261 outages through May.
Unfortunately, this increase raises the chances for the downed and dangling lines that Zadeh experienced when the balloon contact is explosive enough to cause an outage. This scenario also typically prolongs outages.
“Metallic balloons that aren’t safety tied down to a weight or something else sturdy are always a threat to public safety,” said Don Neal, SCE director of Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety. “They should be kept indoors if possible, but they should always be secured to something when they’re outdoors. It only takes one to cause a major injury or outage.”
When balloons lead to downed or dangling power lines — even if they appear not to be live — people should not touch or approach them and call 911 immediately. In addition, no one should ever try to retrieve a balloon — or any object — tangled in power lines or poles. Instead, call SCE at 800-611-1911.
But, the first, and best, step is prevention and that starts with responsible balloon owners.
“The easiest way to avoid what happened to Mr. Zadeh and worse is to keep your balloons secured while celebrating Father’s Day, graduations and weddings this month,” said Neal. “It’s the safest and only way to own them.”