Staying Safe on Galveston Beaches, Chief Peter Davis Explains Flag Warning System

The Galveston Island Beach Patrol puts out all kinds of information about how to stay safe when visiting the beaches.

One important area to familiarize yourself with is our Flag Warning System (FWS) which advises beach patrons of the current water conditions and any applicable environmental warnings.

Lifeguard hoisting a red flag to indicate beach condition warnings on Galveston Island Beach, TX

Flag Warning System

The Flag Warning System is used to advise beach patrons of the current water conditions and any applicable environmental warnings. The flag colors described below are part of a national system employed to help beach-goers understand the current conditions in the always dynamic environment of open water.

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View of green flag on flag pole to indicate calm conditions on Galveston Beaches, Tx
Beach Safety
Flag Warning Locations

On Galveston Island, informational signs and warning flags are posted each day along Seawall Blvd. at 61st St., 53rd St., 37th St., 29th St., and 10th St.

During the summer months, each guarded Lifeguard Tower flies the appropriate flags for the day. All Park Board-operated parks, such as East Beach, Stewart Beach and the West End Pocket Parks, also display the warning flags when the parks are open.

Galveston Island Beach Patrol employs a notification system that displays the day’s warning flags, along with any specific advisories for the day. Interested parties can sign up to receive the notifications via email and/or text message daily.

Sign Up for Beach Warning/ Advisory Notifications

Flag Warning System

Conditions are calm but swim with care. Remember this doesn't mean you're 100% safe. The ocean isn't a pool or pond so you should always be extra careful even on flat days.

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Flag Warning System

This indicates that beachgoers should use caution when entering the water. This flag is flown for normal ocean conditions to remind swimmers to stay alert. It is very important to stay close to shore on yellow days.

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Flag Warning System

Flown when conditions are rough, such as the presence of strong wind, strong current or large surf. Adult swimmers should stay in water no more than waist deep and non-swimmers and children should enjoy the water along the surf line. When there is a red flag flying you should assume the presence of very strong rip currents near any type of structure like groins or jetties.

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Flag Warning System

Indicates potential problems with jellyfish, Portuguese man-o-war, stingrays, or other marine life that could be a hazard for swimmers. Purple flags are used in combination with other flags.

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Flag Warning System

Indicates there is an environmental warning for air and/or water quality. Ask the Lifeguard for more details. Orange pennant flags will be used in combination with other flags.

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Author

Peter Davis Chief of Galveston Island Beach Patrol/ Park Board Police Department

Peter Davis has been an open water lifeguard for 37 years and currently serves as Chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol and of the Park Board Police Department, where he is responsible for over 140 beach lifeguards and police officers as well as a junior lifeguard program of about 120 children. He currently volunteers as the Secretary General of the Americas Region of the International Lifesaving Federation, and is the Past President and current Liaison Officer of the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA). He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Trinity University and a Master of Fine Art from the University of California-Davis.

In 2017 he was awarded the title of Knight in the Order of Lifesaving from the International Lifesaving Federation, and in 2019 he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Water Safety category.

Peter is a USLA instructor for open water lifeguarding and personal watercraft rescue, as well as a Red Cross Instructor for Lifeguarding and Medical Response. He holds certification as an Emergency Medical Technician, Peace Officer, and Public Safety Diver. He is on the USLA/NOAA (National Weather Service and Sea Grant) National Rip Current Education Task Group. He also represents USLA on Water Safety USA, a roundtable of equal leaders in water safety for the United States. He co-produced and co-wrote the educational video “Texas Beaches- Know the Dangers” winner of both the National Telly and Communicators Awards. He also co-edited the Spanish edition of the USLA Manual- 2nd edition and has spearheaded a great deal of lifesaving development work around the world, particularly in central and south America.

In addition to his career in Lifesaving, Peter, a 7th generation Galvestonian, has taught Art in Botswana, Brooklyn, and Galveston. He spends his free time surfing, training, and spending time with his 15-year-old daughter, Kai, on the beach. He loves Galveston and was the Art Director of the Galveston See-Wall mural project.