Runaway foil balloons cause power failures, public warned
The Hawaiian Electric Co. is reminding everyone to hold on to the metal-foil helium balloons given on special occasions such as graduations.
The balloons and ribbons create a hazard and can cause power failures if they become entangled in power lines.
Ka'iulani de Silva, HECO director of Education & Consumer Affairs, said the majority of last year's balloon-related outages occurred in July and August, when outdoor parties were in full swing.
In July there were five outages, and in August, three. This year, graduation day for the University of Hawaii and Mother's Day fall on the same day, tomorrow, and HECO is hoping the public will heed its warning, said Janeen Loose, HECO spokeswoman.
But balloons caught in power lines are a year-round problem, Loose said. For instance, 1,700 customers lost power in Makiki last month because a balloon got caught in the power lines.
To make matters worse, HECO officials say, balloon- related outages last longer because of hazards in clearing the lines and restoring power.
Last year, power failures were reduced by a third after a public education campaign, to 16 from 22 in 2005, according to HECO.
To prevent balloons from getting loose, HECO advises:
» Always attach a small weight to the end of the ribbon or string that holds the helium-filled balloon, such as a mug, small stuffed animal or heavy toy. Each balloon should have its own weight.
» Do not cluster balloons together, because there is a greater chance of them rising and becoming entangled in power lines.
» Never use metallic ribbons, which can also become entangled and cause a short circuit.
» Do not remove weights until the balloon is deflated.
» Do not attempt to climb a utility pole or pull the string to recover a balloon caught in a power line. Call HECO at 548-7961 to report it.