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Uncommon objects can interfere with power lines

May 2, 2023 | Laura King-Homan | how does that work, safety
T&D_Things Caught in Lines_trampoline

OPPD troubleshooters sometimes find things tangled in power lines: tree branches, shoes, foil balloons and yes, even trampolines.

A quick search online will reveal dozens of videos where foil, or mylar, balloons have interfered with power lines. Sometimes they cause an explosion and fire, sometimes they cause an entire neighborhood to go dark. Proper handling and disposal of the balloons ensures they won’t cause a problem.

Beyond balloons

Were you surprised to see trampolines in the above list of things that can become tangled with power lines?

When a wind storm or thunderstorm moves through, and a trampoline is not properly staked into the ground, the wind can blow it into power lines. And because trampolines are made with aluminum, removing them safely from lines can be tedious. When a line technician encounters a trampoline in a line, they often end up cutting it in half.

Here are some tips for properly grounding the trampolines so they don’t become airborne:

  • Install u-shaped wind stakes over the base of the trampoline and into the ground.
  • Purchase a trampoline anchor kit, which often includes steel augers and adjustable nylon straps.
  • Consider using sandbags, which are a low-cost option. When laid on top of each leg of the trampoline, they provide enough weight to hold it down. Sandbags are a good option if you want to forego anchoring your trampoline into the ground.

How does it work?

When a foil balloon, or trampoline, which have metal components, touches a power line, it can cause a surge of electricity that shorts out circuits or other electrical equipment near the line. These shorts can cause fires and outages.

One OPPD troubleshooter said balloons are the equivalent of tossing an aluminum foil ball into a power line. Troubleshooters often encounter the balloons after they have become tangled in higher voltage transmission lines.

Sometimes, a foil balloon can sit among the power lines and not cause a fault or outage. But when a line technician tries to remove it, the balloon could move and short out the circuit. In some instances, the same balloon can trip a circuit over and over again.

Customers often call in obstructions in the lines, even when there isn’t a power outage. Other times, OPPD troubleshooters patrolling a line will encounter the objects.

Reduce the danger

  • Keep the balloons tethered at all times and attached to a weight so they don’t float away.
  • When you’re done with the balloon, puncture and deflate it before disposal.
  • If a balloon becomes entangled in an overhead power line, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RETRIEVE IT. Call OPPD for assistance. Always assume power lines are energized.
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About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the supervisor, Brand and Communication Operations, at Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

View all posts by Laura King-Homan >

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