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France: Flags on beaches

Last modified: 2002-11-02 by ivan sache
Keywords: beach | bathing condition | windsurfing |
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Beach watching system

French beaches usually have a pole to hoist a bathing condition flag. I do not know if there is some law or regulation prescribing such an hoisting. I guess there are, since several beaches have an official first-aid post, whose members are responsible of hoisting the relevant flag. Those posts are managed by members of the CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité), a corps of mobile police forces created in 1945 and mostly famous for repression of demonstrations and crowd movements. The first-aid branches of CRS (they also serve in mountain first-aid) have a better reputation than those seen in the streets.
The CRS members serving on the beaches have police power and are allowed to forbid access to the sea when necessary, and reinforce bathing and yachting rules. They pay special attention to the respect of the areas dedicated to bathing, windsurfing, yachting, and motorboating, respectively. Most of their activity is first-aid to people who have any kind of problems (immersion syncope, sunstroke, jellyfish and weever stings, pickpocket attacks, but also lighter problems such as children who lost their parents in the crowd, adults who lost their car keys in the sand or got the car stuck in the sand etc.)

The main difference with the flag Spanish system is that the flags seem to be always triangular in France. Their meaning is also slightly different because a notion of watching is added.

No flag means that bathing is not watched. Beaches were bathing is never watched do not have a pole but a shield explicitely stating their status (Baignade non surveillée).

Ivan Sache, 28 October 2001

Bathing condition flags

Green flag

[Green beach flag]by Ivan Sache

Bathing allowed and watched.

Orange flag

[Orange beach flag]by Ivan Sache

Bathing allowed and watched, but hazardous

Red flag

[Red beach flag]by Ivan Sache

Bathing strictly prohibited and not watched

Source: Website of the sea resort of Etretat (Normandy)

Note that the beach flags may vary in size and proportion.

Ivan Sache, 28 October 2001

Windsurfing flag

[Windsurfing flag]by Ivan Sache

Rectangular flag, diagonally divided black over white: Conditions not advisable for windsurfing.

Source: Website of the sea resort of Etretat (Normandy)

Ivan Sache, 28 October 2001

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