Balloons Present Power Hazard as Celebration Season Starts

May 16, 2019

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

About 2,500 Silicon Valley Power customers in Santa Clara, California experienced a brief power outage early Sunday evening when balloons became caught in power lines, causing the loss of service.  While this outage lasted only a few minutes, according to the utility, that’s not always the case.

As we head into a season of celebrations, from school graduations to confirmations to weddings, event planners should be aware of the damage balloons can cause when coming into contact with power lines.  That’s especially true with popular Mylar balloons, which are covered with a metallic foil that conducts electricity and can easily cause transformers or other utility equipment to explode, causing local or widespread outages.   While latex balloons pose less of a threat, the ribbons that are often tied to them can have the same kind of impact on power lines.  Families and party planners planning to use balloons should be aware of these factors.

For businesses, this is just another example of how unpredictable outages can be, and every company should be prepared.  Surges and spikes in incoming power – whether there is an outage or not, can instantly overload circuits, damaging any of the electrical components inside business technology.

Furthermore, even if there is no apparent damage, uneven power feeds can smaller amounts of damage that weaken circuits and, over time, will cause the same components to fail.  When servers, switches, storage devices, and other network equipment stop functioning without any obvious cause, it is often due to the weakening of components that eventually break, resulting in extensive repair or replacement costs, in addition to potentially days or weeks of down time.

But, businesses can easily eliminate that risk by installing power protection systems.   In addition to their UPS capabilities that allow equipment to be properly shut down during outages, these systems are designed to manage incoming power and regulate line voltage so there is no risk of damage.  Longer runtime UPS systems can even keep systems online for extended periods, keeping systems operational through outages.

Business leaders need to understand the risks power fluctuations and outage present and take measures to prevent damage before they have to deal with exorbitant costs.  Whether it’s balloons getting tangled in power lines, animals getting into substations, motor vehicle accidents, or severe weather, outages can happen at any time.  Being prepared is the only way to ensure business technology is not impacted beyond the downtime while power is restored.

Edited by Erik Linask