Healthy Body,  Orange Beach/ Gulf Shores,  Travel Tips

Are You Beach Safe?

Before heading out to any beach, always play it safe. You have your sunscreen and sun gear, but do you know about Rip Currents? Because about 100 people drown in rip currents every year. Did you know they can be deadly? According to SciJinks, Lifeguards in the U.S. rescue approximately 30,000 swimmers from rip currents each year. Do you want one of them to be you or one of your family members? One way to learn about this is to check for current beach conditions to ensure you have a safe and fun experience. There are several ways to check beach conditions. One way is to look for beach signals, like beach flags. They tell us precious information about the beach and the surf. There are multiple national and regional variations, but most signs are universal throughout the United States (U.S.) Beach warning flags are posted at all public beach areas along the Gulf Coast, for example, in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and at Gulf State Park, along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Flags may also be posted in other locations at public beaches around the U.S. Conditions are monitored throughout the day, and flags may be updated accordingly. Please remember that the absence of red flags does not ensure safe conditions. Within the corporate city limits of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, it is illegal to enter the Gulf of Mexico when two red flags are displayed.


The Flags are displayed by color and represent the current conditions of the surf. 

The Yellow Beach Flag means there is a medium hazard with moderate surf and/or currents.

The Purple Beach Flag means Marine pests are present, so you should exercise caution. Animals such as sting rays, sharks, and jellyfish, to name a few.

The Red Beach Flag represents a high Hazard with High surf and/or strong currents.

Double Red Flags water mean that the water is closed to the public. It is illegal to enter the Gulf of Mexico within the corporate limits of either city when two red flags are displayed.


Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of water moving quickly away from shore. They occur on all beaches and may happen at any time. Before you hit the beach, learn how to recognize a rip current and how to escape if caught in one. 


Rip currents are most prevalent when the waves crash perpendicular to the beach rather than at an angle. One of the easiest ways to spot a rip current is to look for gaps between the waves. A small patch of calm water surrounded by waves is often a rip current. Look for discolored water near the shore. Rip currents tend to drag large amounts of sand and sediment back out to sea with them, so many rip currents are easily identified by a noticeable flow of sand extending away from the shore. Rip currents are also common in areas near sand bars, piers, pilings, and jetties.


Remain calm. Fighting the rip current can exhaust you. 

Escape the current by swimming parallel to the shoreline. When free of the current, swim at an angle—away from the current—toward shore. If unable to escape, swimming, floating, or treading water is the next best action to take. When the current weakens, swim at an angle away from the current toward the shore. If at any time you feel you will be unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, call, or wave for help. To help someone else caught in a rip current, first call 9-1-1 for assistance, then seek help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not present, yell instructions on how to escape or throw the victim something that floats. To learn how to escape a rip current, click here.

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