Beach Lifeguard Flag System

To stay safe at the beach, always remember F.L.A.G.S.:

  • F – Find the red and yellow flags and swim between them.
    Always swim where there is a lifeguard on patrol, and stay inside the area marked by the red and yellow flags. Never swim where a sign says not to, or when the red flag is flying.
  • L – Look at the safety signs.
    Always read and obey the safety signs – they will help you to avoid potential dangers on the beach, and to identify the safest areas for swimming.
  • A – Ask a lifeguard for advice.
    If in doubt, it’s always best to play it safe and ask the experts.
  • G – Get a friend to swim with you.
    Make sure there are other people around, because you never know when help might be needed.
  • S – Stick your hand in the air and shout for help if you get into difficulty.
    While holding your hand in the air, thread water by kicking your legs and moving your other hand in the water.


If you see someone else in difficulty always tell a Lifeguard! Or if you can’t see one call the emergency services on 999 / 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.

Beach Lifeguard Flag System

A (large) Red-over-Yellow Flag above or near the Lifeguard station means that it is safe to swim and Lifeguards are on duty. Beach Lifeguards in Co. Cork are on duty from 10:30am until 7pm, weekends only during June, everyday during July and August, and only the first two weekends of September.

2014-09-14 18.42.48
Lifeguards lowering their Red/Yellow Flag on Garrettstown Beach, Co. Cork. for the last time of Season 2015.

Two (smaller) Red-over-Yellow flags on the beach indicate the swimming zone i.e. the safest place to swim. Swim between the flags, and parallel to the shore.


A Red Flag means “Danger! No Swimming.”

red flag
A Red Flag raised at Front Strand, Youghal in Co. Cork during a big storm in 2013.

Black and white quartered/chequered flags indicate an area of water that has been zoned for use by craft e.g. board riding, surfing. For your own safety do not swim in these zones. These flags are mostly put in place on beaches where there is a surf school in operation e.g. Garrettstown Beach.

surf flags

No flag means no Lifeguard(s) on duty.