LADWP Warning: Mylar Balloons Can Pose Serious Safety Risks & Cause Power Outages
On Average, Mylar Balloons Cause Power Outages Every Other Day in LA
LOS ANGELES – With graduation season upon us, LADWP is warning customers about the dangers of Mylar balloons, which look great as decorations but are dangerous if they come in contact with power lines.
Each year, thousands of LADWP customers experience power outages caused by Mylar balloons coming in contact with electrical equipment. Stray Mylar balloons cause approximately 200 power outages a year – about one Mylar-related outage every other day in the City of Los Angeles. On Memorial Day weekend, 923 customers in the Sherman Way/Coldwater Canyon area of the San Fernando Valley lost power for the entire day due to Mylar balloons that were released and came into contact with high-voltage power lines. The metallic balloons caused an electrical arc involving more than 34,000 volts of electricity, causing four spans of electric wires – one over 1,500 feet in length – to fall to the ground. Last week, two Mylar balloons contacted even higher voltage power lines, causing those lines to be taken out of service to remove the balloons.
“If Mylar balloons are going to be a part of your celebrations, make sure they are tied down,” said Councilmember Felipe Fuentes, Chair of the Council’s Energy & Environment Committee. “Balloons that aren’t safely secured could cause injury to LADWP customers and to employees working on equipment. It only takes one balloon to cause a power outage or cause a power line to break.” He added, “Let’s enjoy this special time of year and protect power reliability in Los Angeles by keeping Mylar balloons away from power lines.”
“They look harmless, but they wreak havoc on our Power System and pose a threat to public safety,” said LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards. “Letting go of a Mylar balloon can cause more than a power outage for hundreds and oftentimes thousands of customers. They can pose a deadly risk to the public when the power lines they come in contact with fall to the ground. Our preference is that customers don’t use them outdoors at all. The risks are just too high for the system and our customers.”
In the last three years, 587 power outages were caused by Mylar balloons in the City of Los Angeles.
Mylar balloons have a silvery metallic coating which is a conductor for electricity. When the balloons float to the sky and make contact with power lines, they can short transformers, cause power outages, melt electrical wires and cause them to fail. They can even spark an electrical surge that can potentially destroy home electronics.
“It’s not an understatement when we say just how dangerous these balloons can be,” Edwards added. “They are one of the most common causes of power outages in Los Angeles. We don’t want to see fun celebrations for our customers turn into a disaster.”
Here are the safety precautions LADWP recommends for handling Mylar balloons safely:
Always attach a weight to Mylar balloons
If you see a Mylar balloon that has contacted a power line, keep yourself, your equipment, and all other items and people, at least 20 feet away. Do not attempt to climb the pole or try to retrieve the object. Call the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at 1-800-DIAL DWP. Always assume the power lines are energized.
California law requires that all Mylar balloons—single or in “bouquets”—are anchored with a weight to prevent travelling up into the power lines. The law also prohibits metallic ribbon from being attached to helium-filled balloons. Florists and other merchants should always make certain that Mylar balloons are properly weighted, and should remind their customers not to release them outdoors.