Graduation season is upon us and, as with many other types of celebrations, you may be thinking about celebrating with mylar or metallic balloons. These shiny and colorful decorations brighten any celebration but can quickly leave you in the dark if not used and disposed of properly.
“When metallic balloons come into contact with power lines, it can get in between the energized conductor and the neutral wire and cause an arc,” explained Clint Meier, Vice President of Engineering and Operations for Southern Pioneer Electric. “When this happens, it can shut the line off – creating an interruption in service.”
Balloon contact with power lines has other consequences, too. Sparks from the balloon’s contact can create a fire and ignite debris on the ground. Current drought conditions could exacerbate the potential of fires spreading rapidly.
Any time balloons or other debris become tangled in lines, crews must remove it as soon as possible. If the balloon does not create a service interruption, crews may have to initiate one to remove anything from the line safely.
Meier also explained that conditions worsen when balloons encounter substations – where power from transmission lines is stepped down and distributed to consumers. When balloons come into contact with the confined space of a substation, the potential for more extensive (and expensive) damage occurs.
“You may also be faced with a larger, more widespread service interruption if it comes from a substation instead of a pole,” said Meier.
Balloons aren’t the only thing than can become tangled in power lines; kites also present a safety and reliability concern.
“Kites are a concern because you’re connected to them,” said Meier. “Electricity will always find the quickest path to ground; if you’re holding on to a kite that becomes tangled in a power line, and if the conditions are just right, power could travel down the kite string and into you.”
Whether it’s balloons or kites, there are safety considerations for both:
- Keep metallic balloons inside and never intentionally release balloons.
- Always tie balloons down or use a weight.
- Deflate balloons when you’re finished with them and dispose of them properly.
- Never fly balloons or kites near power lines.
- Contact Southern Pioneer if balloons or kites become tangled in power lines or substations. Never attempt to remove objects from power lines.
“Public safety is always our number one concern,” said Meier. “The best thing you can do if you see balloons or kites in a power line is contact our office immediately. Our crews are trained to handle the situation and will work to resolve the issue as quickly and safely as possible.”
To report balloons, kites or other objects in power lines call Southern Pioneer at 1-800-670-4381. Customers can also call our outage and emergency reporting lines at 620-624-7309, 1-866-668-8800 (toll free) or by using the “Contact Us” feature through the SmartHub App.