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What Do Lifeguard Flags Mean?

Posted by Alan J. Duro on Jul 28, 2015 7:00:00 AM

When you're enjoying a day at the beach, knowing what the lifeguard flags mean can be the difference between a lazy, enjoyable afternoon and a traumatic trip to the emergency room. Here are the basics about what each color means for your day at the beach.

What Do Lifeguard Flags Mean?lifeguard flags

  • Red: Like so many things in life, red means danger. A single red beach safety flag means you can still swim, but at your own risk. There can be strong undertow and high surf, making it easy for you to be swept out to sea. If you see two red beach warning flags or a red flag that has a swimmer with a white line drawn through them, the beach is closed for swimming.
  • Yellow: This means conditions are rough, so be careful. This usually means high surf or a strong current or undertow, but can also involve rocks, dropoffs or other hazardous conditions.
  • Green: Come on in, the water's fine! A green flag means that there are no hazards and you can swim here safely. Just remember, ocean conditions can change very rapidly, so keep a weather eye out for potential changes to your situation.
  • Blue or Purple: Even though there's only about 16 shark attacks annually in the US, blue or purple flag means that dangerous marine wildlife has been spotted nearby. Not only limited to sharks, this flag applies to a wide range of marine animals who can be dangerous to people. You can swim here if there are other color flags with it that permit it, but keep a really close eye out for marine wildlife.
  • Other Colors/Patterns: If you see other flags, you may need to ask a lifeguard what it means, because different regions have their own unique patterns or colors for specific hazards in the area. For example, in common surfing areas, a yellow flag with a black dot usually means no surfing is allowed.

Whether you need flags for the beach or a gonfalon for your organization, Accent Banner has been meeting the needs of Bostonians directly since 1992 and through The Flag Center since 1938. Please contact us for a free consultation and help in creating exactly what you need.


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