Met-Ed has a message for Central Pennsylvania residents preparing to celebrate graduations, birthdays, and other milestones while practicing social distancing this summer: Mylar balloons may dress up your celebration, but if you're not careful, they can knock out your power -- and your neighborhood's, too.
A Met-Ed spokesperson said the company has already dealt with three balloon-related power outages in the last four days -- one in Lehigh County, and two in the city of York.
One of the York outages interrupted service for 500 customers, Met-Ed said.
The outages happen when mylar balloons put up as outdoor decorations come untethered, float away, and come in contact with power lines, according to Met-Ed.
Or, in some cases, the mylar balloons are released as part of a planned celebration.
Either way, it's not a good idea, the company said.
“These balloons are attractive and relatively inexpensive decorations, but their metallic coating conducts electricity and poses a risk to our electric system,” said Lisa Rouse, director of outage management at Met-Ed's parent company, FirstEnergy. “Stray balloons that drift into high-voltage equipment often cause power outages and other safety issues that impact our system.”
To help ensure holidays and celebrations are enjoyed responsibly, customers are encouraged to keep the following balloon safety tips in mind:
- Use caution and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead electric lines.
- Securely tie helium-filled metallic balloons to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Do not remove the weight until the balloons are deflated.
- Puncture and deflate metallic balloons once they are no longer in use because they can stay inflated for several weeks. Never release them into the sky.
- Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone and immediately call FirstEnergy at 888-544-4877 to report the problem.
- Stay far away from a downed or low-hanging power line. Always assume downed lines are energized and dangerous. Report them ASAP by calling 888-544-4877 or 911.
“We realize many people are simply unaware of the dangers associated with releasing these foil balloons outdoors, and by educating the public we can help keep our local communities safe while reducing the risk of any electric service disruptions,” said Rouse.