Beach Flag Warning System

••• Todd Taulman

South Florida beaches use a uniform flag warning system to advise beachgoers of potential safety risks. These colored flags indicate the nature of the threat and the action government officials advise. The flag warning system is consistent throughout the state of Florida. The government describes each flag as follows:

  • Red flags with a no swimming symbol indicate that the water is closed to the public.
  • Red flags without a symbol indicate a high hazard from surf and/or currents.
  • Yellow flags indicate a medium hazard from moderate surf and/or currents.
  • Green flags indicate a low hazard with calm conditions. Beachgoers should still exercise caution.
  • Purple flags indicate a hazard from dangerous marine life. These flags are used in conjunction with another colored flag indicating the current surf/current conditions.
It is extremely important to monitor the flag warning system. Dangerous rip currents may exist in the water but provide no visible indication from shore. This is especially true in South Florida, where distant tropical storms may impact our currents and produce dangerous beach conditions even when no other symptoms of tropical weather are present.

Here’s some advice from Miami Dade Fire Rescue to help you stay safe while enjoying South Florida beaches:
  • The best survival tip is prevention. Avoid swimming in beaches when rip current advisories are in effect.
  • Swim only at guarded beaches during lifeguard duty hours, and ask them about surf conditions before entering the water.
  • Never swim alone, the buddy system works! Keep an extra careful watch on children and elderly swimmers.
  • If you do get caught in a rip current, remain calm and don’t try to swim against the current. Instead, swim out of the current in a perpendicular direction, following the shoreline. Once you are out of the current, swim back to shore.
  • If you cannot swim out of the current, float or lightly tread water to conserve your energy until you are out of the current, then swim to shore.
  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard or call 9-1-1. Many people drown while trying to save others from a rip current.