|Title||International Signs and Beach Safety Flags - Is it possible to achieve an International Beach Safety Flag system?|
|Publication Type||Conference Paper|
|Year of Publication||2007|
|Conference Name||World Conference on Drowning Prevention|
|Publisher||International Life Saving Federation|
|Conference Location||Porto, Portugal|
|Learning Outcomes|| |
|Full Text|| |
International Signs and Beach Safety Flags
Peter George AM
Signs and flags are important on beaches to inform users about local information, lifeguard services and potential safety risks. Signs and flags are not only important to people unfamiliar with the beach but also to regular beach users in relation to current and changing conditions.
Signage has played an important role in risk and safety management at aquatic locations around the world. It is therefore in everyone's interest to derive one common standard for water safety signage and beach safety flags so that there is no misunderstanding when people visit a beach anywhere within the world. A common standard will assist in warning the public on where and where not to swim.
This paper reviews the current status of safety signage and beach safety flags and asks the question whether it is possible to achieve a common standard throughout the world.
Signage is important for three reasons: (1)
The International Lifesaving Federation (ILS) adopted a range of beach safety flags in 2002.(2) This followed a detailed analysis of member organisation standards and recommendations from the ILS Rescue and Education Committee.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is currently developing their own standard (3) (ISO/DIS 20712-2) which differs both in the number of flags proposed and the colour and meaning of certain flags.
Other ILS member organisations also have a number of variations in relation to beach safety flags. Currently all organisations believe that their standard is the preferred method. Detailed discussions are continuing at all levels to attempt to resolve this issue.
The major challenge remains the personal preference and long standing tradition in various countries with all countries reluctant to change their current system as it will require time, effort and money to both replace existing signage and flags, and to re-educate the public as to the meaning of certain symbols and flags.
Beach Safety Flags
The ILS beach safety flag standard has 8 recommended flags while the ISO draft standard has 6. The differences are highlighted in the attached table (Table 1)
Comparison of ILS standard beach safety flags with the draft ISO beach safety flag standard.
Table 1 - Comparison between ILS and draft ISO Beach Safety Flags.
As can be seen from the table, 5 flags are common with respect to colour - the red and yellow, the red, the yellow, the black and white quartered, and the orange windsock. ILS has 3 flags that are not included in the draft ISO standard - the purple, the yellow with black central ball, and the red over red. ISO has one flag that is not included in the ILS standard - the red and white.
From a colour point of view, it is possible to make the ISO standard a sub set of the ILS standard providing that ILS adopts a Red and White, Emergency Evacuation flag. The ILS Rescue Committee has foreshadowed an addition to the current ILS standard to resolve this issue, subject to the final deliberations of the ISO Committee (ISO/TC 145/SC 2) reviewing the standard. It is therefore possible to have one set of flag colours, with the ISO standard flags (6 in total) being a sub set of the ILS flags.
Unfortunately, some of the meanings attributed to the various flag colours are different.
The main differences are in the general warning flags, i.e. the Yellow flag and the Red flag. The Yellow and Red flags have been included as part of a general escalating warning system similar to he traffic light system. However, both ILS and ISO have acknowledged that we should not fly a Green flag signifying safe beach conditions as we cannot guarantee that any beach is safe under all conditions. We are therefore left with a Yellow flag and a Red flag as part of this general warning system.
What will stop a common set of beach safety flags from being introduced?
Water Safety Signage
One of the ILS Rescue Committee objectives for the current term of the committee is:
ISO has commenced the process of developing a standard signage template and specifications for signage for aquatic areas. Five members of the ILS Rescue Committee are members of the ISO Water Safety Signs and Beach Safety Flags working group and have been able to influence both the number and style of the signage. Information from the recent ILS Member Organisation survey provided details of signage currently used within Member Organisations.
Draft ISO standards for both 'Guidance for the use of water safety signs and beach safety flags' (ISO/DIS 20712-3) and 'Specifications for water safety signs and beach safety flags' (ISO/DIS 20712-1) have been issued for feedback. It is expected that once these are formally adopted by ISO, ILS will refer to these standards as best practice. The ILS Rescue Committee will continue to provide input into the ISO process. It is not expected that ISO will finalise their recommended standard until late 2008.
It is possible to have a common International water safety signs and beach safety flag system. However, a number of compromises will need to be made in relation to beach safety flags as articulated in this paper. ILS is working with ISO to establish a common water safety signage system. While this may not cover all member organisation signage requirements, it will go a long way to establishing a world wide standard.
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