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Metallic Balloon Safety
Colorful, shiny metallic balloons are a popular gift at graduations, birthdays and special occasions, but they can pose a safety hazard if improperly used or disposed. Hawaii Electric Light cares about your safety and offers the following information:
Metallic Balloons and Power Lines
Year-round, residents and businesses experience power outages caused by unsecured metallic balloons drifting into energized power lines. It takes only one metallic balloon to inconvenience thousands of customers, sometimes leaving them in the dark for hours.
Metallic balloons owe their shiny, silvery surface to a type of metallized nylon that can conduct electricity. When a metallic balloons slips from the string or is not held properly with a weight, it will fly away and potentially become caught or entangled in power lines. Since the shiny surface is a 'conductor,' it will create a short circuit. In some instances, metallic balloons in contact with power lines can lead to downed lines, the potential for fires, property damage to homes and businesses, and in the worst case serious personal injury.
Outage Prevention and Safety Campaign
Mid-May through early June poses the highest safety risk. During this graduation season, metallic balloons account for the highest percentage of outages. It also becomes a safety concern for the Hawaii Electric Light crews that have to remove the metallic balloons from the energized lines.
Metallic Balloon Safety Tips
If you do give or receive metallic balloons, please remember these safety tips provided by Hawaiian Electric Company and The Balloon Council a coalition of manufacturers, distributors and retailers working together to educate the public on balloon issues:
- Never release metallic balloons into the sky.
- Always attach a small weight to the end of the ribbon or string that holds the helium-filled metallic balloon to keep it from floating away. Some ideas for a weight include a mug, small stuffed animal or heavy toy.
- Use only non-metallic string and make sure it is tied securely to the balloon at the sealing point.
- Do not remove balloon weights until the balloon has been deflated.
- Each metallic balloon should be individually attached to a weight. Avoid tying the balloons together which has a greater chance of rising as a cluster and becoming entangled in power lines, increasing the chances of electrical problems or power outages.
- Properly dispose of metallic balloons; cut balloons with scissors directly above the knot or sealing point to deflate it and immediately put the balloon in the trash.
- If you see a metallic balloon caught in a power line, DO NOT attempt to climb a utility pole or pull the string to recover it. Leave it alone and call Hawaii Electric Light's trouble line at (808) 969-6666 to report it.
Metallic Balloon Facts
There are many misconceptions about metallic balloons, and The Balloon Council is working to educate the public and create awareness about good balloon management practices. Here are some good-to-know facts about metallic balloons:
- Metallic balloons are commonly, but incorrectly called "Mylar."
- Metallic balloons are made from a non-biodegradable plastic or metallized nylon. In Hawaii, we should be especially concerned if metallic balloons float out to sea. They can drift for miles eventually settling on the ocean surface where they mimic the appearance of jellyfish or other food sources for birds, turtles, fish and other marine life which are unable to digest the material and inevitably die. The animals also can become entangled in the string.
- Metallic balloons should have both a printed warning of possible danger from contact with electric power lines and identification of the manufacturer. Most balloons produced in the U.S. already carry such notices.
- Metallic balloons are never used in balloon releases.
- In California, a law exists that requires helium-filled foil balloons to have weights.
- Responsible retailers and their employees will remind customers not to release helium-filled metallic balloons or attach metallic strings or ribbons