Beach Safety

What do the flags mean? Where should I swim? What do I do if I get caught in a rip current?  Here is some information to make your visit to the beach safer.

Current beach forecast information from the National Weather Service Wilmington Weather Field Office

Example of water temperatures
  1. Color-Coded Flag Signals

Each beach town has lifeguard stands to help watch over the beach and share conditions on the surf.  Be sure to pay attention to the colored signal flags so you'll understand the water conditions in the observed area. Remember, If You Are In Doubt, Don't Go Out.


Flag Color
Hazard Type
Description of Conditions
Green Flag - safe to swimGreen FlagLow HazardConditions are calm.  Normal care and caution should be exercised.
Yellow flag - use caution when swimmingYellow FlagMedium HazardModerate surf and/or currents are present. Weak swimmers are discouraged from entering the water. For others, enhanced care and caution should be exercised.
Red flag - dangerous water conditionsRed FlagHigh HazardRough conditions such as strong surf and/or currents are present. All swimmers are discouraged from entering the water. Those entering the water should take great care. Wind and/or wave conditions are expected to support the development of very strong rip currents. This category implies that water conditions are life threatening to all people who enter the surf. There may be a high number of rescues on red flag days.
Double red flag - beach closedDouble Red FlagClosed BeachWater is closed to public use.
Surfing area - black and white quartered flagQuartered Black and White FlagInformationThese flags will be used in pairs to indicate the boundaries of a designated area where surfboards are prohibited.
Purple flag - dangerous marine life close byPurple FlagInformationDangerous marine animals are nearby (e.g., jellyfish, Man O' War, etc.)
  1. Rip Current Safety
  1. Guidelines to safe beaches
  1. Beach Town Web Pages
  1. Preparing for the Beach
  1. Staying safe at the beach
  1. Additional resources