Flying Metallic Balloon Causes Blackout

Full-colored balloons flying in the air often catch eyes, especially at parks or in various anniversaries, amusing excited children and reminding grownups of their far childhood.

But it is not well-known that this symbol of innocence can threaten our daily lives. Astonishingly, it actually happens very frequently. Paul Netter, the spokesperson of Southern California Edison (SCE), warned the danger of metallic balloons which causes lots of serious accidents, citing their own cases.

Metallic Balloon explosion 캡쳐

Last July in Long Beach, there happened an explosion due to two balloons fouled in power lines. Around the moment and near the spot, lineman James Yolla and apprentice Brandon Copp from Hampton Tedder Electric (HTE), an SCE contractor, were doing repairs on a pole. The crew foreman, John Harley Saiz, noticed an unusual sound and sought out its source. Soon he found the balloons tangled in power lines about 50 feet from the on-the-pole linemen.

“The wind was kind of banging them together where I heard a thumping noise,” said Saiz. “They were halfway between where we were working and the next pole. In fact, one of the customers said she saw them go right past her window.”

After discovering the balloons, he immediately stopped yolla and copp’s operation, checked his workers and had them evacuate from the spot. Also he called for an SCE trouble-man to de-energize the lines to safely remove the balloons. About in 10 minutes, the balloons moved before the winds towards where the linemen were working, then suddenly exploded in a moment with blinding light and thumping noise. The blast engulfed the top 10 feet of the pole and downed two power lines. Later, Saiz depicted this as the worst balloon incident he has experienced in his 20 years on electrical crews. The lines were finally fixed by the workers of SCE and HTE late on evening. Thanks to the crew foreman’s experienced action, no human damages were reported. However, as the explosion produced a huge blackout, 3,056 homes and businesses were left without electricity from Tuesday 10:40 a.m. to 8:52 p.m.

Metallic Balloon Outages February-01_final

These kind of incidents happens every year. According to SCE’s investigation, Metallic balloon accidents recorded a steep increase for recent three years and last year approached even 1,094 times. Especially from about this time, near Valentine’s Day, to June, when numerous events are conducted, metallic balloon accidents happens the most. In order to decline damages, SCE suggested some safety tips as follows:

Metallic Balloons Safety Tips

  1. Metallic balloons should always be tied to a weight.
  2. Stores and vendors should only sell properly weighted balloons.
  3. Balloon owners should never remove the weight
  4. Balloons should never be released outdoors.
  5. Do not try to retrieve balloons tangled in power lines.
  6. Puncture balloons before disposing of them.

“Metallic balloons look harmless, but this incident proves again how dangerous they are when released outdoors,” said Andrew S. Martinez, vice president of Safety, Security and Business Resiliency at SCE. “People should always keep them tied to a weight, as state law requires, keep them indoors and never, ever release them outdoors, individually or in a bunch, to ensure safety and eliminate possible power outages.”

(Korea Herald)