Public Safety Awareness

Beach Safety: Knowing the Warning Flags


If you haven’t made your first trip to the beach yet, chances are you’re planning on it soon, with Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer behind you. Just remember, when you’re packing up your beach bag with all the essentials for a fun and safe beach day, that the conditions at the beach can be precarious and there is a flag system to help you stay informed and advised on the safety of the water. Here is a quick rundown on what these beach warning flags mean, as well as a visual guide to help you remember.


Unfortunately, if you see a red flag at the beach, it will be in your best interests to avoid going into the water completely. The red color indicates that there are dangerous conditions in the water, including high surfs, extremely strong currents, and undertows. It is suggested that only very strong swimmers enter the water when there is a red flag, but even then it’s not very safe at all. We prefer to suggest that even the strongest swimmers just enjoy the day on the sand and hold off on swimming for another day.

Double Red

A double red flag means that the water is closed to swimming entirely, due to extremely hazardous conditions. Not only are you prohibited from entering the water at all, but you could be fined or even arrested for not complying with the ban on swimming in some states or cities. It is never wise to go into the ocean when the water is closed under a double red flag.


Yellow flags indicate that conditions in the water are a bit rough, with higher surfs and currents than average, but it is still OK to swim with caution. It’s best that only very strong swimmers enter the water and that everyone stays as close to lifeguard stands as possible. Anyone who is unsure of their ability and stamina in the water should consider wearing a life-jacket or staying on the beach.


The green flag is a wonderful sight! It means that the water is safe for swimming, though you should still do so with care. The ocean can be unpredictable, so you should always practice caution, but this flag indicates that the surfs are low and currents and undertows are at a minimum. It’s time to take a dip!

Blue or Purple

These flags can foretell of unpleasantness lingering out in the water and should be taken very seriously. Either a dark blue or a purple flag signals that dangerous marine life has been spotted in the water. This could suggest that jellyfish, stingrays or even sharks are nearby. Since this particular warning flag has nothing to do with the conditions of the tides and currents, it can sometimes appear alongside any of the other colored flags. Exercise extreme caution when approaching the water under a blue or purple flag, or simply opt to play beach games or work on your tan instead.

Use, print or share this informative visual aid for beach warning flags as you see fit.




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