Red Flags and Red Flag Warnings

Jun 10th, 2017

Red flags warnings may be announced or, in some cases, an actual red flag displayed. In general, the warnings are serious and it would be wise to pay attention to them. Following are the most common red flags warnings.



Fire Danger


The national weather service generally issues red flag warnings in specific areas of a state when the weather conditions make the danger of fire very high. Those conditions generally include high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.


Land management agencies in the areas affected are notified by the National Weather Service when a red flag warning is issued. Those agencies disseminate that information to the public. Residents and visitors to those areas are prohibited from burning fires until the red flag warning is lifted.


Each year, thousands of acres of land are lost due to wild fires. When conditions are right, an outside fire can spread out on control in a matter of minutes. Lightning strikes during storms can also cause wild fires. Anytime a red flag fire warning is issued, residents should be on the alert for fires and take whatever measures they can to protect their homes. Fire fighters suggest that planting gardens and using rocks around your home can help build buffers between your home and wild fires. Flammable objects, such as dry debris, should be removed from your property.



Water Warning


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. When life guards on duty, visitors should follow their directions to help avoid injury to themselves and/or others. For example, those in charge may let visitors know that they may proceed into the water until waist deep.


In some areas, one red flag means the same as two red flags (discussed below). The risk of drowning is high and swimmers should not 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. In some areas, two red flags means the beach is closed to the public.


It would be wise to learn the exact meanings of the flags on the beaches that you visit. Read more about beach warning flags on our blog.


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