Someone’s celebration was no reason to celebrate for people at hundreds of homes and businesses in Youngstown and Austintown last week.

FirstEnergy has announced that Thursday’s electrical outage for 1,300 customers on Thursday was caused by a foil balloon that drifted into a power line.

Last year, foil balloons were to blame for 102 power outages across FirstEnergy's six-state service area—an 18% decrease in balloon-related outages when compared to 2021 and a 25% decrease when compared to 2020.

Now that Valentine’s Day is over, the utility is concerned that people who want to dispose of heart-shaped and other helium-filled foil balloons will let them float into the sky.

These balloons continue to cause power outages each year when released outdoors because their metallic coating conducts electricity and poses a risk to the electric system, according to FirstEnergy.

February typically marks the onset of a dramatic increase in outages caused by adrift metallic balloons that peaks in June, when warm weather takes celebrations and picnics outdoors.

To help ensure holidays and celebrations are enjoyed responsibly,  FirstEnergy is asking customers 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.