What are the Penalties for Disobeying Beach Warning Flags?
Chances are if you've ever been to a public beach you've noticed colored flags flying near the beach entrance or near the beach's lifeguard stand. These flags are there for a reason. They are meant to be a simple and effective way of letting you know what the water and swimming conditions are at the beach you are visiting.
What Do the Colors of the Various Beach Flags Mean?
The flag's colors coincide for the most part with what most of us already understand. Namely, green means go, red means stop, and yellow means caution, it works for traffic lights and it works on the beach too.
A green flag flying at the beach means the water is wonderful and the swimming conditions are excellent. A yellow flag at the beach means conditions aren't perfect for swimmers so if you do decide to swim, use caution. A red flag means stop, there is a very high hazard associated with swimming at the beach when this flag is displayed. Meanwhile, a double red flag means, no, you can't get in the water.
As you might imagine, there is a certain segment of the population that is either really stupid, really hardheaded, or perhaps really intoxicated because, in the past two days as Gulf Coast beaches are all reporting extremely bad rip current conditions, two people have had incidents involving getting in the water with a red flag flying.
In Panama City Florida a man was arrested for getting in the water while double red flags are flying and yes, the lifeguards can detain you until law enforcement personnel arrive on the scene. Many beaches in Florida have fines of $500 or more and the possibility of jail time for those who break the "flag rules".
And while you might think jail time for a beach violation is extreme when you consider that a second person who went in the water with the man who was arrested is fighting for his life after being resuscitated on the beach. To make matters worse, while rescuers were saving the second man's life, the first man attempted to go back into the water.
And in another red flag incident, this time at a beach in South Walton County a 60-year-old man was pulled from the water just yesterday less than half a mile away from the lifeguard stand. That man is reported to be in critical condition at a Florida hospital.
If you're going to the beach this weekend, please know there are risks associated with swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.
There is a moderate risk of rip currents off some of the more popular beaches of Alabama and Florida this weekend. So, do be careful if you choose to go in swimming, and remember different beaches might have different warning flags flying, so do check near the lifeguard stand before you or your family ventures out into the water.
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