Warning Flags at Beach: What to Look Out For
You’re excited for your day at the beach and are ready to jump into the water when you see a bright yellow flag poking out from a pole in the sand.
This is one of a handful of flags that lifeguards use to give warning signs to beachgoers about water conditions and potential hazards. Understanding these flags can be the difference between a fun beach day and a dangerous one, so let’s dive in!
Double Red Flag
When two red flags are flying, it indicates a complete closure of the beach or waters. This could be due to extremely dangerous water conditions, environmental factors, or emergencies such as a shark sighting. Under no circumstances should you enter the water when a double red flag is up.
A single red flag is one of the stronger warning signs there are. It represents a high hazard level, often associated with strong currents or high surf. When you see a single red flag, you should exercise extreme caution if you decide to enter the water. In these cases, conditions will be quite dangerous, especially for those who aren't strong swimmers or unfamiliar with the ocean.
A yellow flag signifies medium hazard conditions. This could mean moderate surf or currents. While not as severe as a red flag, a yellow flag still calls for extra caution. Non-swimmers or inexperienced swimmers should avoid entering the water under these conditions, and others should only do so with a flotation device and plenty of vigilance.
A green flag is a positive sign! It signals low hazard conditions, meaning the sea is calm, and swimming conditions are generally safe. However, this doesn't mean you can let your guard down completely. Always keep an eye on children, stay within your limits, and never swim alone.
The purple flag is a little different. Instead of indicating the strength of the surf or currents, it warns about marine life. This could include jellyfish, stingrays, or harmful bacteria.
When a purple flag is up, check with a lifeguard to understand more about the potential dangers. To add a layer of protection from stingrays, you can check out our stingray resistant booties.
Foundation for Environment Education blue beach flag
This flag might not be as common as the others, but it carries a different sort of significance. A blue flag indicates that a beach has met the Foundation for Environmental Education's stringent standards for water quality, safety, services, environmental management, and information. In essence, it’s an international award acknowledging a well-maintained, clean, and environmentally friendly beach.
Finally, while not a flag, the orange windsock is another common beach safety symbol. It indicates the presence of off-shore winds. In conditions like these, water activities with inflatables could be hazardous since it would make it harder to get back to shore.
Understanding these flags is critical to being safe at the beach. Always check the flags when you arrive, and if in doubt, ask a lifeguard to explain the current conditions.
Although a flag can give a heads up on conditions, the absence of a flag does not necessarily mean safe waters! We always advocate for practicing beach safety habits whether you’re swimming in open water or walking around in the shallow. When it comes to stingrays, you can check out our collection of stingray resistant booties and read more about about How to Avoid Getting Stung by Stingrays on our blog.