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Beach Flags (Brazil)

Last modified: 2008-08-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: beach flags |
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Beach Flags

Brazil is country with a very long shore line and many beaches, with warm sunny climate and where beach going is highly popular — for tourists and locals alike. I searched the "interwebs" for some info but found almost nothing substantive.

As usual, at, the official site of the Brazilian Navy institution which coordinates beach security, there is no useful information. However, a nice photo at seems to imply that red means unsafe beach condition. At we learn that in Rio in the 1950s red meant danger and white meant safety, hoisted on a yardarm below the national flag ("bandeiras hasteadas, abaixo da brasileira, a branca, significando mar livre, e a vermelha de mar perigoso"). At the site of Sobrasa (apparently a private lifeguard institution), there is a translation to Portuguese of an ILS document about recommended beach flag meanings and designs (more later). This doesn’t mean that this system is in active use in Brazil.

In a "lost/found child" flag is mentioned, in use as of 1971 (from Jornal do Brasil of 1973.02.18): "bandeiras vermelhas com a cruz branca servem para que crianças esperem por seus pais enquanto estes não a encontram nas praias." The design is not clear: either Swiss or Savoian styles are possible, as also a saltire. The usage is pretty clear, though: rallying point for lost children to wait for their parents (or whatever guardians) at. Not clear whether this is a system in use or just a proposal. In the same, a mention of red and yellow beach warning flags, quoted from O Globo of 1989.11.05: "bandeiras vermelhas que proíbem banho de mar e" (…) "amarelas que apontam a existência de valas e correnteza" meaning red flags which forbid swimming and yellow flags pointing to underwater trenches and strong currents.

At, the Santa Catarina state government public safety official website, a classic traffic light system is described for the state beaches, managed by the State Military Police Fire Department, with an interesting addition: General beach conditions are signed by a large flag at the life guard post and specific dangers are marked locally with a (smaller) red flag reading "local perigoso" ("dangerous place") in white letters set in two lines aligned to the hoist. A photo at was so tortured by clumsy JPG manipulation that the flag is not readable anymore. I guess that the readable obverse is with the staff at the viewer’s left hand:

Brazil image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 17 September 2007

The other flags prescribed by the the SC state government are thus (my translation from

  • Red flag - Dangerous sea: Avoid entering the water. In this situation, the sea has big waves and very strong currents.
  • Yellow flag - Treacherous sea: Pay attention for at any moment the sea might catch you by surprise.
  • Green flag - Fair sea: Sea offering good bathing conditions. However be always careful and conscious of your own limits.
Which agrees with the generic "traffic light" system.

António Martins-Tuválkin, 17 September 2007