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Foil balloons causing spike in power outages in Northeast Ohio

Posted at 2:32 PM, Jun 08, 2020

CLEVELAND — With summer approaching, many will be attending or hosting graduation parties and celebrations and some may be decorating for birthdays or special events while others may be attending tributes or vigils. While it’s common to have balloons at such events, FirstEnergy says that helium-filled foil balloons are causing a spike in power outages.

Over the weekend, FirstEnergy customers on the East Side of Cleveland experienced a four-hour power outage after foil balloons made contact with the company’s power lines in two separate locations. Nearly 700 customers were without power, FirstEnergy said.

FirstEnergy said that the metallic coating of a foil balloon conducts electricity and when released outdoors, poses a risk to the electric system.

Dozens of power outages over the past month alone have been caused by the foil balloons drifting into the power lines and high-voltage equipment, FirstEnergy said.

The electric company provided a list of safety tips for those celebrating or demonstrating outdoors and are using balloons:

  • 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.