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Metallic Balloon Safety
Please be aware that effective Jan. 1, 2023, intentional outdoor releases of helium-filled balloons are illegal in Hawaii. The new law is intended to protect marine animals and wildlife which can mistake balloons as food and suffer severe injuries or death, or become entangled in the strings and suffocate. Violators will incur fines of $500 for each offense.
Exceptions to the rule are indoor balloon releases as long as they remain indoors, weather/meteorological balloons released for scientific purposes and hot-air balloons recovered after launching.
Colorful, shiny metallic balloons are a popular gift at graduations, birthdays and special occasions, but they can pose a safety hazard if improperly used or disposed.
Hawaiian Electric cares about your safety and offers the following information:
Metallic Balloons and Power Lines
Year-round, residents and businesses experience power outages caused by unsecured metallic balloons drifting into energized power lines. It takes only one metallic balloon to inconvenience thousands of customers, sometimes leaving them in the dark for hours.
Metallic balloons owe their shiny, silvery surface to a type of metallized nylon that can conduct electricity. When a metallic balloon slips from the string or is not held properly with a weight, it will fly away and potentially become caught or entangled in power lines. Since the shiny surface is a "conductor," it will create a short circuit. In some instances, metallic balloons in contact with power lines can lead to downed lines, the potential for fires, property damage to homes or businesses, and in the worst case, serious personal injury.
Outage Prevention and Safety Campaign
Mid-May through early June poses the highest safety risk. During this graduation season, metallic balloons account for the highest percentage of outages. It also becomes a safety concern for the Hawaiian Electric crews that have to remove the metallic balloons from the energized lines.
Metallic Balloon Safety Tips
If you do give or receive metallic balloons, please remember these safety tips:
- Never intentionally release metallic balloons into the sky; remember, it's now prohibited by law in Hawaii!
- Always attach a small weight to the end of the ribbon or string that holds the helium-filled metallic balloon to keep it from floating away. Some ideas for a weight include a mug, small stuffed animal or heavy toy.
- Use only non-metallic string and make sure it is tied securely to the balloon at the sealing point.
- Do not remove balloon weights until the balloon has been deflated.
- Each metallic balloon should be individually attached to a weight. Avoid tying the balloons together. A cluster of balloons has a greater chance of accidentally rising and becoming entangled in power lines, increasing the potential for electrical problems or power outages.
- Properly dispose of metallic balloons. Cut balloons with scissors directly above the knot or sealing point to deflate it and immediately put the balloon in the trash.
- If you see a metallic balloon caught in a power line, DO NOT attempt to climb a utility pole or pull the string to recover it. Leave it alone and call Hawaiian Electric's trouble line at one of the following to report it:
1-855-304-1212 (Press 1)
Metallic Balloon Facts
Here are some good-to-know facts about metallic balloons:
- Metallic or foil balloons are commonly, but incorrectly called "Mylar."
- Metallic balloons are made from a non-biodegradable plastic or metallized nylon. In Hawaii, we should be especially concerned if metallic balloons float out to sea. They can drift for miles eventually settling on the ocean surface where they mimic the appearance of jellyfish or other food sources for birds, turtles, fish and other marine life which are unable to digest the material and inevitably die. The animals also can become entangled in the string.
- Metallic balloons should have both a printed warning of possible danger from contact with electric power lines and identification of the manufacturer. Most balloons produced in the U.S. already carry such notices.