Ocean Rescue FAQs

What do the flags mean on the Lifeguard Tower?

When you see a flag flying on a lifeguard tower, it means that a lifeguard is on duty. Sometimes you will see a lifeguard dropping their flag, waving their flag, and sometimes placing their flag at a 90 degree angle while standing on top of their tower. Those acts are acts of relaying emergency information between other lifeguards nearby.

How can I find out about the current Ocean Conditions?

There are multiple ways to obtain information on the current Ocean Conditions:

What do the different color flags mean that I see on the walk overs?

Lifeguards throughout the United States have adopted a set of flags to advise bathers of the current ocean conditions. In the absence of condition flags, bathers should be cautious of going into the water. Never assume it is safe to swim in the absence of condition flags.

  • Green Flag - Calm Ocean Conditions. Swim near a lifeguard.
  • Yellow Flag - Moderate Ocean Conditions. Waves, long-shore currents, and rip currents are present; danger may increase greatly depending on tide and/or location. Check with your lifeguard before entering the water.
  • Red Flag - Dangerous Ocean Conditions. Persistent large waves, strong long-shore current, strong rip currents.
  • Double Red Flag - No water activity allowed. Water is closed.
  • Purple Flag - Dangerous Marine Life Present. Although there is always dangerous marine life in the ocean, when the purple flag is seen flown, bathers should be alert that there is an influx of dangerous marine life at the time.

For more information on Ocean Condition Flags, click HERE

What is a Rip Current?

A rip current is a dangerous channel of water leading out to sea. Water left onshore by breaking waves needs somewhere to go and the force of this water forms lateral currents, called feeders, that feed the neck of the rip current. Water rushes out to sea in the neck of the rip current and disperses at the head of the rip current. Usually waves do not break in the rip current’s neck; the water is brown and murky from the sand kicked up by the water. Click HERE for more information on rip currents.

What do I do if I find an injured bird or a marine mammal on the beach?

If you come across any injured animal or sea creature on the beach, do not touch it or attempt to help it. The best thing you can do is notify the nearest lifeguard and they can contact the proper authority. If you do not see a lifeguard near by, call Jacksonville Beach Dispatch at 904-270-1661.

What should I do if I get stung by a jellyfish?

Don't touch the site where you came in contact with the jellyfish. Seek the nearest lifeguard's assistance and they will treat you appropriately. Usually, treating the sting with a mixture of vinegar and saline water will alleviate the pain. If you start having life threatening conditions and do not see a lifeguard nearby, call 911 immediately. 

Can I sleep or camp overnight on the beach?

No. According to Jacksonville Beach City Ordinance Sec.16-10, sleeping, lodging, and camping is not allowed on the beach at any time.

Can I reserve a spot on the beach for my special event?

Generally the beach is first come, first served unless a permit is obtained. Contact the Jacksonville Beach Parks and Recreation Department for more information at 904-247-6236.

What should I do if I can not find my child at the beach?

When family members get separated from their children, they need to immediately report to the nearest lifeguard. It is highly advised that you look for your missing child before seeking assistance. In the event that there is not a lifeguard present, call 911 immediately. We recommend that you teach your child to go to the lifeguard immediately in the event that they cannot find the people they came to the beach with.

What should I do if a lifeguard is whistling at me when I am in the water?

When a lifeguard is whistling at you, they are trying to alert you to move away from a dangerous area, such as in a rip current. You should follow all of the lifeguard’s hand signals. If you do not know what to do or whether or not the lifeguard is whistling at you, you should get out of the water and ask the lifeguard.