South Haven beaches get new swimmer safety flags

Associated Press

South Haven — New flags for swimmer safety are being used on a western Michigan city’s beaches that are meant to help clarify conditions, including for the colorblind.

On South Haven’s beaches, the red flags used to warn swimmers now have a depiction of a swimmer with a circle-and-bar symbol, while the words “green” and “yellow” are on green and yellow flags, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported.

Fire chief Ron Wise said the red flag signals strong currents or high surf, the yellow one is for moderate currents or surf, and the green one indicates calm conditions. Flags are placed each day by 9 a.m. They’re checked at noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and taken down at 9 p.m.

“The lake can be very dangerous for children even when the lake is very calm, and parents need to be very vigilant when their children are near any body of water,” Wise said. “Water depth can change in a split second and the child can slip under the water without a sound.”

The flags will fly through Sept. 15 at South Haven’s seven city beaches. Although there currently is not a penalty for swimming in Lake Michigan if there’s a red or yellow flag, Wise noted that anyone who has to be rescued will be charged $500.

“A person struggling in the water may only have a few seconds before they go under the water,” Wise said. “The best way to prevent this is to stay out of the water on dangerous days or at least wear a life vest or wet suit like the wind surfers use when they are out on the windy days.”