Understanding the beach flag warning system

It's important to understand the beach flag warning system (Source: Gulf Coast Beach Cams)
It's important to understand the beach flag warning system (Source: Gulf Coast Beach Cams)
Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 12:24 PM CST
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GULF SHORES, AL (WSFA) - As spring break approaches, officials say it's important to be prepared and to understand the beach warning flag system.

According to the website of the City of Gulf Shores, flags are posted at all public beach areas and beach conditions are monitored throughout each day. The absence of red flags does not assure safe conditions on beaches.

On Gulf Shores and Orange Beach city beaches it is illegal to enter the water when the double red flag is being flown, according to the city's website.

Information on each flag color and its meaning is below:

  • Green Flag: Low hazard- calm conditions, exercise caution
  • Yellow Flag: Medium hazard- moderate surf and or currents
  • Purple Flag: Dangerous marine life present
  • Single Red Flag: High surf and or strong currents
  • Double Red Flag: Closed to the public

For current beach conditions in Gulf Shores call, 251-968-TIDE (8433). For current beach conditions in Orange beach call, 251-981-SURF (7873)

If you happen to avoid getting stuck in a rip current here are some tips from USA.gov:

  • Check the water conditions before going in by looking at the local beach forecast or posted flags.
  • Only swim at a beach with lifeguards. The chance of drowning at a beach with lifeguards are one in 18 million, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association.
  • Don’t assume great weather for the beach does not always mean it’s safe to swim or even play in the shallows. Rip currents often form on calm, sunny days.
  • Learn how to spot a rip current. There are several websites that can help you learn to spot a rip current.
If you do get caught in a rip current, here are some tips:
  • Don’t fight the current. It’s a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of one to two feet per second but has been measured as fast as eight feet per second, faster than an Olympic swimmer.
  • Relax and float to conserve energy. Staying calm could save your life.
  • Do not try to swim directly into to shore. Swim along the shoreline until you escape the currents pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If you feel you can’t reach the shore, relax and face the shore. Call or wave for help and if in doubt, don’t go out!

Check out more information on rip currents and beach safety by clicking this link.

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