What Do the Lifeguard Flag Colors Mean in South Carolina?

A green flag at a lifeguard station indicates it is safe to go swimming.
A green flag at a lifeguard station indicates it is safe to go swimming. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Lifeguards use various signs and flags to warn beach goers about the conditions on the beach and in the water. This communication tool gives information about potential safety risks, health hazards, whether the beach is open or not and whether lifeguards are on duty. The flags that are used by most ocean lifeguards, including those in South Carolina, were adopted in 2002 by the International Lifesaving Federation. When at the beach, continually check the status of the flags because conditions can change throughout the day.


An orange flag at the lifeguard station or stand means there is no lifeguard on duty. Take precautions when swimming in the unguarded area and keep an eye out for hazardous conditions. Never swim alone, regardless of whether there is a lifeguard on duty or not.

Yellow and Green

A yellow or green flag means a lifeguard is on duty and available should help be required. The yellow flag still acts as a general warning to let swimmers know there are potential dangers, such as rip currents or marine life. A green flag indicates the waters are safe for swimming and the lifeguards have spotted no potential dangers.


A blue flag signifies aquatic dangers and hazards. These may consist of large amounts of marine life, such as sharks or man-o-war, or debris in the water. Check with the lifeguard for details.


A red flag flying on the lifeguard stand or station indicates that the beach is closed to the public. Reasons for closure include strong rip currents, unsafe surf conditions, hurricanes or other life-threatening hazards in the immediate area. The red flag warns that the waters are unsafe for swimmers, but some strong swimmers and surfers tend to make their way into the water. For your own safety, do not swim in the ocean when a red flag is flying.

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