KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As families start to gather in the coming weeks for high school and college graduation celebrations, power companies are warning about the dangers of releasing balloons into the air.
Shiny, metallic balloons, also known as Mylar balloons, have a silvery coating that conducts electricity. If the balloons make contact with power lines, they can short transformers, melt electric wires and cause power outages, all of which pose public safety risks, according to Evergy, an electric company that serves more than 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.
The video above shows what happens when a Mylar balloon comes in contact with a power line. The demonstration was performed by trained linemen with the proper safety equipment in a controlled environment.
"Most people aren’t thinking about interfering with power lines if a balloon is released. We want to raise awareness to help keep customers safe and the lights on for graduation parties and all occasions," Evergy spokeswoman Gina Penzig said.
While Evergy said they don't specifically track outages caused by the balloons, Arizona Public Service reports Mylar balloons have caused 11 power outages in their service territory so far this year, disrupting service to more than 6,100 customers.
Most balloon-related outages occur between Valentine’s Day and graduation season, APS said.
To keep everyone safe during graduation season, here are some safety tips:
- Use balloons indoors and keep them away from overhead power lines. Even non-metallic balloons can become entangled in lines and cause an outage.
- Always attach a weight to metallic balloons or keep them tethered at all times.
- Never play with balloons, kites or drones around overhead power lines.
- Always deflate balloons and dispose of them properly when no longer in use.
- Always assume power lines are energized. Keep yourself and your personal items at least 100 feet away from power lines.