Beach Safety

Beach Warning Flags:

Warning flags are posted by many coastal communities, but, the flags used to identify different tide and surf conditions vary from place to place. Many residents and visitors travel to different parts of the state to enjoy our wonderful public beaches. Differences in flag colors, size and symbols can confuse beach goers, thereby decreasing the effectiveness of efforts to improve public safety.

How does it work?

The Department’s beach warning flag program uses the colors adopted by the International Lifesaving Federation, with symbols added to clarify the meaning of the flags. The program also includes the placement of interpretive signs along the beach to explain the meaning each flag used in the warning system.

To the extent of available funds, the warning flags and interpretive signs are provided free of charge to local governments that provide public beach access. The communities that receive the free warning flags and interpretive signs are responsible for the installation, proper use, and maintenance of the flags and signs. Public beaches utilizing a warning system must adhere to the state’s uniform warning flag program

Sun Exposure:

Too much sun can not only damage and dry our skin over time, it can cause a nasty sunburn and even death. Prevention seems to be the key here, so follow these tips:

  • Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the sun’s rays (between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.).

  • Apply sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15, paying special attention to the face, nose, ears and shoulders.

  • A sunscreen with a SPF of 30 more more should be used for children. Babies should not spend a lot of time in the sun, and your pediatrician should be consulted for babies under 6 months of age.
  • Don’t forget your lips. Bring along a lip balm with a SPF of 15 or more.

  • An Aloe-based after-sun lotion is a great way to soothe your skin after a day in the sun.

It is equally important to recognize and carefully watch for the symptoms of sunburn and know how to apply first-aid. Remember that if you do get a sunburn, treat it seriously.

Sunglasses (with ultraviolet protection) and wide-brim hats are not just fashion accessories. They are must-have items to take along for added sun protection.

Everyone should consider bringing protective clothing. Even something as simple as a t-shirt can offer relief from the sun’s rays. Babies under 6 months old should wear protective clothing, a brimmed sun hat and sunglasses to protect the eyes from harmful UV rays.

Bringing along or renting a beach umbrella is a great idea. It adds greater protection from the sun.

Shark Attacks:

Volusia’s beaches have been labeled the “Shark Capital of the World,” but this label does not take into account the sheer number of people who swim daily without incident. (An average of 10 million bathers visit Volusia’s beaches each year.)

For most of local resident shark attacks has never been an issue however intense press coverage certainly creates an illusion that shark attacks are a common occurrence in Volusia County.

Here are some basic fact and recommendation on avoiding shark attacks:

The majority of documented shark attacks in Volusia County occur in New Smyrna Beach near the inlet. To date, there have been no fatalities on Volusia’s 47 miles of beaches due to sharks. Most bites are small. However, there have been a few more serious injuries.

In Volusia the majority of bites are credited to Juvenile Black Tip and Spinner sharks looking for baitfish. These young sharks are learning to find food and get disoriented when they get into the wave area near the beach. Once they bite a human, a warm-blooded animal, they quickly realize their mistake and let go.

  • Swim near a lifeguard. Volusia Lifeguard are trained to spot sharks.

  • Avoid swimming alone.

  • Avoids swimming early in the morning or late in the evening.

  • When in the water avoid wearing jewelry (ankle or wrist bracelet, toe ring etc.


Rip currents are the leading surf hazard for all beachgoers. They are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 feet per second. However, speeds as high as 8 feet per second have been measured–this is faster than an Olympic swimmer can sprint! Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. Over 100 drowning due to rip currents occur every year in the United States. More than 80% of water rescues on surf beaches are due to rip currents.

A rip current is a horizontal current. Rip currents do not pull people under the water–-they pull people away from shore. Drowning deaths occur when people pulled offshore are unable to keep themselves afloat and swim to shore. This may be due to any combination of fear, panic, exhaustion, or lack of swimming skills.

Rip Current Warning Sign

If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Don’t fight the current. Calmly swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.

  • Never swim alone.

  • Be cautious at all times, especially when swimming at unguarded beaches. If in doubt, don’t go out!

  • Whenever possible, swim at a lifeguard protected beach.

  • Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards.

  • If caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly.

  • Don’t fight the current. Swim out of the current in a direction following the shoreline. When out of the current, swim towards shore.

  • If you are unable to swim out of the rip current, float or calmly tread water. When out of the current, swim towards shore.
  • If you are still unable to reach shore, draw attention to yourself: face the shore, wave your arms, and yell for help.

  • If you see someone in trouble, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1 . Throw the rip current victim something that floats and yell instructions on how to escape. Remember, many people drown while trying to save someone else from a rip current.


In the event an electrical storm approaches the beach you should leave the water and seek shelter. For safety reasons the Beach Patrol usually order the evacuation of the beach when lightning is visible.