West Georgia Health is banning helium-filled balloons from its facilities after having problems with loose balloons setting off fire alarms.
The ban takes effect immediately.
“We actually did have a balloon get loose in the atrium of our lobby,” said Jan Nichols, hospital spokeswoman. “We couldn’t get to it and it triggered the sensors. It created a burdensome situation.”
Helium balloons present a danger when they are released and float to high levels in the building, setting off smoke alarms and creating unnecessary stress on patients, visitors and staff, Nichols said. In addition, these balloons often get trapped and cannot be retrieved in a timely manner. In turn, loose balloons can repeatedly trigger alarms and subsequent safety protocols that the staff must observe each time a fire alarm sounds.
Nichols said the move actually is following a national trend of hospitals banning the balloons.
Helium balloons will no longer be available for purchase in the West Georgia Health gift shop, Expressions from the Heart, and the health system respectfully requests that vendors discontinue balloon deliveries and that visitors choose other gift options for West Georgia Health patients.
This ban applies only to helium-filled balloons. Visitors are welcome to continue bringing air-filled balloons into facilities.
Nichols said the hospital already had removed the helium balloons Wednesday and was working on getting a compressed air machine so balloons still could be sold.
“We’ve been trying to contact florists and balloon providers and let them know of the change,” she said. “We don’t want someone to be disappointed they couldn’t get a delivery.”
Madeline Folds, of LaGrange Florist, said the change will affect her business.
“We send a lot of balloons to the hospital,” she said.
At least two local florist and gift providers were not surprised to hear of the change.
“I’m surprised helium hasn’t been outlawed before now because of the price,” said Betty Westbrook, owner of Creative Call-ins. “We will keep that in mind when we have people ordering a delivery there.”
Special Appointment by Jane Rogers doesn’t do balloons with flowers anymore, an employee said.
Michelle Wheless, owner of Sweet Peas floral shop, said her store already had stopped delivering latex balloons to schools because of children with allergies. The balloons also sound like a gun firing when they are popped, another reason not to have them in a school.
“We don’t do much with balloons here,” she said. “It’s not a big loss.”