Beach Safety…What do those flags mean?

Have you ever went to the beach?🏖️

If so, were there lifeguards on duty?⛑️

Hopefully the answer is ‘yes’; however, it is still beneficial to you to comprehend and take the appropriate course of action with each flag shown on the lifeguard station.

Let’s take a look at the different flags and what they mean…

Red Flags

This flag is the most serious of all the flags, which is why we put it first.  Red flags warn swimmers of serious hazards in the water including high or dangerous currents, sometimes even both.  If there is ONE red flag, that means you can still swim, but only if you are a strong swimmer and you should still take precaution.

TWO red flags indicate that no swimming is allowed in the water at this time.  In some cases, there will be a red flag with a swimmer on it with a line through it, symbolizing the ‘no swimming’ principle.

Yellow Flags

 Yellow flags are next on the list.  These types of flags indicate rough water conditions but not necessarily dangerous conditions.  If you are not a strong swimmer, we recommend wearing a life jacket or if you are swimming with children.  Stay near a lifeguard and pay close attention to their signals, flags, and guidance.  There may still be strong currents present, a sudden drop-off, rocky terrains, or a high population of fish that are a favorite among its predators.

Green Flags

Green flags, similar to traffic lights, indicate that it is all clear to enter the water.  There are no present hazards at this time.  However, this does NOT mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to your surroundings.  The weather and currents can always change and you should still be aware of the lifeguard station in case any warnings are issued.

Blue and Purple Flags

These flags are directed towards marine life in the waters that you are swimming in.  Types of marine life you may encounter or hear about are sea snakes, jellyfish, stingrays, and sharks.  Often, you may see these flags fly independently OR paired with another flag.  For instance, in the presence of a dangerous shark in the waters, the blue or purple flag may be paired with one of the red flags to indicate ‘no swimming due to marine life’.

Other Flags and General Guidelines

Depending on where you travel, different beaches may have different sporting events or different flags than what you may have previously anticipated.

quartered flag looks very similar to a black-and-white checkerboard.  There are four squares, two black ones that are diagonal to each other and two white ones that are diagonal to each other.  This flag denotes a particular beach area to be designated for a particular sporting event, surfboarding, or other equipment.

A yellow flag with a black circle in the middle of it indicates that no surfing is allowed at this time.  This will give swimmers and families an opportunity to enjoy the waters without being in the way of surfers.

An orange windsock flag implies that strong winds are present and inflatable objects should not be used in the water.  It is also useful in informing beach goers the direction of offshore winds so they can plan accordingly.

You may see other signs on the beach besides the flags, so pay close attention to those too.

Here are OUR top 10 tips when going to the beach to ensure you are safe and can enjoy!

  1. Learn how to swim – Take a course, read, watch videos, etc.
  2. Swim with a friend – In case of emergencies or rip currents
  3. Swim near a lifeguard – They have cues, flags, and can save you IF needed
  4. Check on the lifeguard’s signals – As mentioned above, green flags may not be green for long and can escalate to a yellow or red flag
  5. Stay hydrated and Use sunscreen – Drink plenty of water and make sure your sunscreen is not expired.
  6. Be aware of ALL signs and flags – There are more than just the flags on the beaches.
  7. Keep the ocean and beach clean – Help pick up litter or warn family members about the danger of leaving trash on the beach
  8. Wear a life jacket if you aren’t the best swimmer
  9. Read a book or catch up on rip current safety
  10. Enter the water  feet first

Thank you for reading!  Let us know if we missed anything!

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