Graduations, weddings, Father's Day, Fourth of July — the summer is filled with special events often celebrated with decorations that could include Mylar helium balloons.
Public Service Electric & Gas is reminding customers that proper handling of these balloons can prevent them from drifting into power lines and causing some serious damage.
PSE&G Director of Emergency Preparedness Paul Toscarelli said on average there are hundreds of incidents a year, affecting more than 30,000 customers, interrupting them, mostly during this season involving Mylar balloons.
He said the metallic coating on Mylar balloons conducts electricity. So when this balloon touches a power line or even floats into a substation, it can short out the equipment, leading to downed wires, outages and even fires.
Earlier this year, there were a few Mylar balloon instances that caused PSE&G outages. One caused a momentary outage for more than 1,400 customers and a four-hour outage in Palisades during a February snowstorm. Another incident caused a nearly 40-minute power outage for about 1,400 customers in Paterson.
To reduce the risk of outages, Toscarelli encourages customers to practice what he calls "responsible balloon ownership."
That includes securing balloons at events with weights and in transport so they don't fly away. Always dispose of Mylar balloons safely by puncturing the balloon several times to release the helium so they can't float away. Cutting them loose and watching them float away is never a good idea.
Toscarelli said never fly Mylar balloons or kites, for that matter, in the rain or during electrical storms.
If someone sees a Mylar balloon on a power line, do not try to retrieve it from the power line yourself. Instead, Toscarelli said to call PSE&G at 1-800-436-7734 and a crew will come out and safely remove the balloon.
PSE&G has embarked on several reliability programs such as The Energy Strong Program, which makes the facility resilient to outside influences such as storms, winds, trees and even Mylar balloons.
The program introduces equipment and technology to detect issues on its system earlier, which in turn, helps restore power to customers at a much faster clip.