There's something about the sugar-white sand beaches of the Heart of Florida's Emerald Coast that isn't like any other beach in the world. People travel from all over to visit our pristine natural playground where you can swim, surf, fish, and more.  Though, much like any other natural getaway, there are always safety precautions you should be educated on so everyone can enjoy their time here on the beach.  A few important beach safety topics to follow are beach flag color awareness, rip currents, and UV rays.

Hazard Flag Safety

Once you arrive for a day of fun on the beaches of Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island please take note of the colored flags that are flying overhead on our public beaches. The Okaloosa County flag system represents the current overall surf conditions and marine life that may impact your swimming experience. The flags are adjusted throughout the day as the weather and surf changes so check frequently for any changes.  Let's go over what each color means and how it could affect your beach experience:

·      GREEN:  Indicates low hazard, and means calm conditions, but swimmers should exercise caution.

·      YELLOW:  Indicates medium hazard, and means moderate surf and/or currents.

·      RED:  indicates high hazard, and means high surf and/or currents.

·      TWO RED FLAGS: An additional red flag means the water is closed to the public.

·      PURPLE:  indicates dangerous sea life.

Want a live update on what the flags currently are in your area or where you're about to spend the day? Okaloosa County provides updates on the current beach flags and conditions online:

LINK: https://alertokaloosa.com/beach-flags-conditions/

Rip Current Safety

Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore and an awareness of rip currents is key for your safety on the beach.  Remind those joining you on the beach of these important tips:

- Do not to panic if they become caught in a rip current. 

- The swimmer should relax and float to save their energy and then swim at an angle away from the current and towards the shore. 

- If you can't reach the shore draw attention to yourself by yelling, waving your arms and asking for help immediately.

Stay close the lifeguard towers and in view of the lifeguard so if you are caught in a rip current then they can assist you quickly. Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island takes pride in the services our Beach Safety Lifeguards provide.  Our guards are trained to the advanced level of the United States Lifesaving Association’s open water standard and are also medically trained as First Responders. If you see a lifeguard at their post you can feel a peace of mind when your family swims under the watchful eye of one of our trained guards.   Although, the water along the coastlines of the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast is generally calm and inviting it is still important to be aware of the flag system and presence of rip currents. 

Keep your eye on those flags we just talked about, if it's a yellow or red flag, there could be rip currents present. The water along the coastlines of the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast is generally calm and inviting it is still important to be aware of the flag system and presence of rip currents to keep you and those joining you at the beach safe!

UV Rays & Sunscreen

One beach safety tip that can sometimes be forgotten is the use of sunscreen. The warm rays of the beautiful Florida sunshine are always welcome but remember that the UV rays are powerful. Applying sunscreen, wearing appropriate UV resistant beachwear and sunglasses, and staying under a shaded umbrella is always key to enjoying your day at the beach.  Sunscreen should be waterproof and reapplied every few hours to avoid a painful sunburn. Even on cloudy days or in colder weather the rays of the Florida sunshine can cause a sunburn so reapply often. 

A day on the Heart of Florida’s Emerald Coast is always enjoyable and following a few simple safety steps will make sure it is a safe one too. There's only a handful of things to keep a lookout for and if you do, you can enjoy hours of fun on the beaches of Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Okaloosa Island!