With summer celebrations and graduation parties in full swing, FirstEnergy is reminding customers to celebrate with helium-filled foil balloons safely after experiencing a spike in balloon-related power outages.

Just this week, stray foil balloons were to blame for three lengthy power outages in the Youngstown area due to them getting entangled in power lines and substation equipment.

Balloon-related outages typically increase during warmer weather when parties occur outdoors.

Most people are surprised to learn that the metallic coating of a foil balloon conducts electricity and causes power outages, fires and other safety issues when they float into power lines and electrical equipment.

Last year, foil balloons were to blame for nearly 140 power outages across FirstEnergy's six-state service area, a 25% increase in balloon, related outages when compared to 2019.

Over the past three years, stray balloons have caused about 370 power outages in areas served by FirstEnergy's electric companies.

FirstEnergy encourages people to keep the following balloon safety tips in mind:

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

 - Securely tie helium-filled metallic balloons to a weight that is heavy enough to prevent them from floating away. Do not remove the weight until the balloons are deflated.

 - Puncture and deflate metallic balloons once they are no longer in use because they can stay inflated for several weeks. Never release them into the sky.

 - Never attempt to retrieve any type of balloon, kite or toy that becomes caught in a power line. Leave it alone and immediately call FirstEnergy at 888-544-4877 to report the problem.

 - Stay far away from a downed or low-hanging power line. Always assume downed lines are energized and dangerous. Report them ASAP by calling 911.