Foil Balloon Causes Four-Hour Power Outage

April 14, 2016

By Casey Houser - Contributing Writer

A news brief from Eugene, Ore. this past week noted that a foil balloon had damaged a Eugene Water & Electric Board substation, causing a four-hour power outage for about 2,400 customers.

Local news source The Register (News - Alert)-Guard spoke to a Board spokesperson and had determined that on April 5, an “errant foil balloon” landed on a circuit near Interstate 105 near the Garden Way section of the city.

Because of their composition, the foil of such balloons has been known to overload circuits at substations. Such an event is not uncommon. However, power companies such as the Eugene Board have designed their stations to reroute power when damage occurs to a single circuit. A rerouting did not occur in this situation because the balloon was able to cause damage to multiple circuits at once.

Power company spokesman Joe Harwood called the accident’s odds of happening “just absolutely tiny” – the type of situation the power grid is not prepared to handle without manual intervention from Board professionals. Fortunately, those professionals were alerted to the 8 p.m. accident and were able to restore power shortly after midnight of the same day.

This type of situation, no matter how small its possibility, still remains within the set of possible occurrences. Although homeowners may only suffer the loss of having no TV for an evening, businesses could suffer greater losses to their operations if they don’t prepare their own backup systems beforehand.

Back in March, TMC (News - Alert) reported the case where a California neighborhood lost power after an 18-wheel truck hit a power pole. Now Eugene has reported that a balloon caused even more damage than the big rig. In similar cases, power backup units from companies such as Minuteman can step forward to make sure businesses are able to keep working.

Minuteman Director of Marketing Bill Allen (News - Alert) has noted that companies can control whole-building backup units remotely and keep an eye on power management from any location. Whenever a power outage occurs in the surrounding area, the units can take control and power computers, phones, lights, and other essentials necessary for the continuation of daily activities.

It isn’t every day that one foil balloon can take out power to an entire area. The most important note for businesses is that they can either prepare themselves or risk being left in the dark. Given just two options, the latter probably isn’t the way to go.

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