Beach Safety: Flags and Meanings

Planning a vacation or short trip down to a Florida Beach sometime soon? Even for locals, the Safety Beach Flag system is a great advancement to inform the public of their local beach hazards. It is a very wise idea to educate yourself, friends and family, about beach safety by learning about the beach warning flag system before your next Florida beach vacation.

Safety officials are able to display the water condition for the residents and visitors that come to our Florida beaches by using a Beach Flag Warning System indicating the different water conditions with various colored flags.

Before the beach Flag warning system was created, Florida beaches only used a red flag to indicate strong currents and rough waters.

Today, there are 5 different colored flags that represent the various water conditions. The flags are flown daily to display the water conditions, ranging from Low Hazards to the water ultimately being closed to the public. 

When the double red flag is posted, it is actually illegal to enter the water in some areas. The best time to enter the water is when the Green Flag is flown.

Also, a unique purple flag will be displayed whenever there is dangerous marine life in the water. This is important to be able to recognize, as the marine life that is present may or may not be seen by the naked eye. Jelly fish stings are no fun, especially on vacation.

One thing to be aware of, is that the conditions in the Gulf of Mexico are not consistent, the water conditions are constantly changing.

Due to the inconsistency of the Gulf of Mexico, be sure to check flag colors at least once an hour, the flag color may have changed since you first arrived. Educating yourself on beach safety will help ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to our beaches. 

Beach Warning Flag Meanings:

Green Flag: Low Hazard

Yellow Flag: Medium Hazard

Single Red Flag: High Hazard (High Surf/High Current) Even the strongest swimmers have trouble returning to shore.

Double Red Flag: Water Closed to Public (In some beach cities located on the Emerald Coast, you can actually be arrested for ignoring this warning!

Purple Flag: Dangerous Marine Life Portuguese Manoware, Jelly Fish, Sharks or Sea lice. Use caution when you enter the water, be aware of your surroundings. The purple flag will always fly in conjunction with another surf warning flag.

*Absence of Beach Flag does not ensure safe waters.


Rip currents are not always easy to identify, as they can't be seen with the naked eye. Even on calm sunny days, the deadly current can still be there. Rip currents are fast-moving currents of water that can pull the most experienced swimmer away from shore, resulting in at least 100 deaths caused by drowning each year at U.S. beaches.  

Signs of a rip current include a break in the wave pattern, lines of foam seaweed or debris moving outword or a channel of churning choppy water. Use your best judgement when entering the water, as rip currents can occur on any beach with breaking waves.

“To break the grip”: Whatever you do, don’t fight the current. If possible, swim out of the current into a direction that still follows the shoreline. If you are unable to escape the current, float or tread water until the current stops. Do not panic and do not waste energy fighting the current. Panicking and applying extensive effort into fighting the current can cause you to lose energy, and weaken your chance of staying afloat until the current stops. If you are still unable to reach the shore, wave your arms and call for help.

Stay aware, stay safe, and most of all..have fun on our Florida beaches!


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