CLEVELAND, Ohio — All those car parades and drive-by birthday parties during the pandemic had unintended consequences: more foil balloons causing more power outages.
According to FirstEnergy, 132 outages in 2020 were attributed to foil balloons across the company’s six state service area, up 25% from 2019. On the precipice of Valentine’s Day, one of the biggest balloon holidays of the year, the company is warning balloon givers and receivers not to let go.
The foil balloons’ metallic coating conducts electricity and can interfere with First Energy’s electric system.
“Many people are surprised to learn that stray balloons can drift into high-voltage equipment and cause power outages and other safety issues that impact our power system,” said Lisa Rouse, director of outage management at FirstEnergy, in a news release. “Although these balloons are fun and festive, it is important for people to handle them properly so they do not get released into the sky and impact electric service.”
FirstEnergy — under continual fire since this summer, accused of funneling $61 million with its affiliates to ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder — is advising that people securely tie balloons to a weight that will keep them from flying away. They also want people to puncture and deflate balloons when finished using them.
If you do see a balloon caught in a power line, don’t touch it. Instead, report the problem to FirstEnergy at 888-544-4877.
“By educating the public about the safety concerns that arise when using foil balloons outdoors, we can help keep our local communities safe while reducing the risk of any electric service disruptions,” Rouse said.