Beach Warning Flags and What They Mean

Mar 16th, 2017


The United States Lifesaving Association and the International Lifesaving Federation worked together to develop a flag warning system for beaches. Knowing what the flags mean can help keep you safe.




Blue or Purple Flag


Dark blue or purple colored flags indicate that ocean animals that are potentially dangerous have been spotted in the area. For example, jellyfish and sharks. Extreme caution and a watchful eye should be used when in the water.


Green Flag


A green flag indicates that the danger level in the water is minimal, and that it is safe to enter the water. It is wise to remember that the ocean is unpredictable and those entering the water should do so with caution.


Red Flag


Red flags are serious warnings. One flag indicates that dangerous currents are present, the surf is high, or both. Extreme caution should be taken when going into the water. Generally, only strong swimmers should enter the water.


Two red flags indicate that swimmers are prohibited from entering the water because of dangerous conditions. Some coastal communities feature a swimmer with a white line through on a red field instead of two flags.


Yellow Flag


Yellow flags mean that there is the potential for high surf and dangerous currents or undertow. Those entering the water should use extreme caution. Life jackets should be used for children and for those that are not strong swimmers. In addition, swimmers should stay near life guards.


There are some beaches that display a yellow flag permanently. Some of the reasons include rocks, sudden drop-offs, or a large population of fish that could attract predators.


Yellow Flag with Black Dot


Some beaches use a yellow flag featuring a black dot in the center. The flag indicates that surfing is prohibited in that particular area to ensure that swimmers will not have to deal with surfers in the water. On the other hand, a black and white checkered flag indicates that surfing is allowed, but swimming is not.


When vacationing at beaches, it is wise to have an idea of what the flags mean. Some beaches use flags that are specific to that particular beach. If you do not know what a flag means, you should ask a lifeguard.


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