Let’s imagine that you and your family are not familiar with the ocean and you just began your Summer vacation in Fort Walton Beach. It’s a beautiful day here along the Emerald Coast and you decide that you want to “live like the locals do” and take a quick dip into the Gulf before lunch. As you step onto the sand you notice some flags swaying in the breeze nearby. You’re puzzled for a moment because next to the flags stands a warning sign. You have no idea what this is because you have never seen such a thing back home. What do you do next?
It’s important to educate yourself before exploring any new area. It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, and no one wants that. To help protect the safety of beachgoers, Florida has a beach warning flag program that uses different flags in four colors to signify different safety warnings. Each color represents a different hazard that is present at the time of day. These flags help unify the safety and enjoyment of all Florida beaches. The overall mission of these flags are to provide awareness of constant changes in tide and surf conditions. These changes help minimize the risks of drowning incidents and other serious injuries that may occur.
Here are the warning flags that you and your family should be aware of:
- Double red flags: means that the water is closed to the public. This is a flag that means water conditions are dangerous and it’s not worth risking it.
- A single red flag: means high hazards such as high surf and/or strong currents. This typically means, swim at your own risk. But if you are a poor swimmer or have small children, it’s safer to avoid the water during these conditions.
- A yellow flag: means that medium hazards such as moderate surf and/or currents are present. It’s still the same factor of “swim at your own risk,” so make your best judgement before making that call.
- A green flag: mean low hazards or a consistent calm condition. This is not extreme by any means so go enjoy the water! But always be cautious since ocean conditions can change.
- A purple flag: means that dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, algae, etc, have been spotted. This flag indicates that you should swim at your own risk.
Educating yourself with the descriptions of these flags can help prevent any serious injuries. It’s important to always be aware of your surroundings, especially when you are exploring the ocean for the first time.