Beach Warning Flags – What Do They Mean?

Summer is almost here, and that means beach season is almost here as well! Learn how beach warning flags help protect you from more than just the sun.

Image of the beach warning flag system.

Summer is a season that most people look to take advantage of, especially in the Midwest. After the long, cold winters we need to make the most of the summer days that we get. One of the best summertime activities is heading to the beach. You gather up family or friends, pack a cooler, grab your favorite water sports gear and head to the nearest beach. Most people are so excited when they get to the beach that they may miss minor (but important) details. Most of the major beaches located on large bodies of water post beach warning flags to alert beachgoers of potential hazards, similar to storm warning flags. Let’s go over each beach warning flag so you can better understand what they mean.

It is important to note that large bodies of water can be unpredictable at times, so it is always important to exercise caution when engaging in activities on the water or at the beach.

Red Flags

Red is a color that generally alerts people to a serious threat, and the red beach warning flag is no different. The red flag is the most serious, and it is meant to alert beachgoers of dangerous threats in the water. One red flag means the current is dangerous or the surf is high. You can still swim in the water if you see one red flag, but you should do so with caution. However, if you see two red flags at the beach, you should pack up and head to the next beach because this one is closed to swimmers.

Green Flags

The green beach warning flag means that conditions are good and it is safe to swim.

Yellow Flags

The yellow beach warning flag is not as serious as the red flag, but not as lax as the green flag. Yellow flags can be viewed as an intermediate warning. When a yellow flag is present at the beach, you should not be afraid to swim, but do so with awareness of potential dangers.

Purple and Blue Flags

If you see one of these beach warning flags, you should be on high alert for dangerous ocean animals. Dangerous animals can include, but are not limited to sharks and jellyfish. While swimming is not forbidden when a blue or purple flag is present, it would be a good idea to stay out of the water until the threat is gone.

Different parts of the world can have different versions of beach warning flags, so ask the nearest lifeguard if you are unsure about the flag posted at the beach.

Credit: USA Today

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