Metallic balloons and power lines don’t mix

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By Patrick McIntyre, CSU Energy Coordinator

With social distancing in place because of the COVID-19 outbreak, people are finding new ways to celebrate events and milestones without the typical parties and get-togethers.

And what’s a birthday or graduation without balloons, especially those shiny, helium-filled foil balloons that are all the rage. They are called Mylar balloons and come in various shapes and sizes and can represent numbers and letters.

Unfortunately, they can also be hazardous.

When released, these festive balloons can get caught in high voltage power lines. The metallic coating conducts electricity and causes short circuits when entangled in power lines.

Stray Mylar balloons entangled in overhead lines in the last week caused two electric outages for hundreds of College Station residents. Such disruptions can cover a large area for two hours or more while we clear the balloons and repair damaged equipment.

Power outages not only inconvenience our customers, but they also jeopardize public safety and cause lost revenue for businesses. Two years ago, a stray balloon caused an outage and lengthy delay during a Major League Baseball game at Dodger Stadium.

This recent report by an Arizona news station illustrates the issue:

College Station Utilities offers five tips to help prevent outages when celebrating birthdays, graduations and other events with Mylar balloons:

  1. Never allow Mylar balloons to be released outside. Keep the balloons indoors when possible.
  2. Make sure Mylar balloons are securely tied to a weight heavy enough to keep them from floating away. Never remove the weight.
  3. Don’t bundle Mylar balloons together.
  4. When your celebration is over, cut the balloons up and throw them away. Even a semi-inflated balloon can become airborne.
  5. Never try to retrieve anything that gets caught in a power line.

To report objects caught in power lines, call 911. To report outages, call 855-528-4278, and have your account number ready.


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CSU Energy Coordinator Patrick McIntyre is responsible for energy conservation and key accounts programs. Pat joined CSU as a key accounts representative in 2009. He previously worked for 17 years in the manufacturing sector and eight years as a consultant with the Texas Engineering Extension Service. Pat graduated from Texas A&M in 1982 with B.S. in Industrial Distribution and has lived in the area since 1984.



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