Electric companies urge customers to avoid using metallic balloons on Valentine's Day

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Gas and electric companies are urging residents to avoid the use of helium-filled metallic balloons this Valentine's Day, as they can cause power outages and injuries to those that might be within reach of power lines.

Metallic balloons caused more than 300 outages in just one pocket of California, affecting electric service to nearly 165,000 homes and businesses throughout Northern and Central California last year, according to a statement released by Katie Allen, corporate representative for Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

"Sometimes these outages interrupt electric services to important facilities such as hospitals, schools and traffic lights," Allen said in the statement.

Allen also said that the number of power outages caused by metallic balloons has more than doubled in the past ten years.

In order to reduce the number of accidents that may occur due to metallic balloons hitting the power lines, here are some recommendations:

- Use caution and avoid celebrating with metallic balloons near overhead electric lines.

- Make sure helium-filled metallic balloons are security tied to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Never remove the weight.

- When possible, keep metallic balloons indoors. Never permit metallic balloons to be released outside, for everyone's safety.

- Do not bundle metallic balloons together.

- Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone, and immediately call a power company for help.

- Never go near a power line that has fallen to the ground or is dangling in the air. Always assume downed electric lines are energized and extremely dangerous. Stay far away, keep others away and immediately call 911 to alert the police and fire departments.

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