I helped the state of Florida design its flag warning system, which is based primarily on the International Life Saving Federation standard. The ILS flag warning standard states, in part, "… these flags are only to be used on beaches where lifesavers qualified to ILS standards are on duty. Flags are not an acceptable substitute for properly trained and equipped rescuers, but rather a tool for their use." Flags and signs are like stop signs or traffic signals, but they are less well understood because you don't have to have a license or take a test to use a swimming area. As we all know, traffic signals can help reduce traffic accidents, but they are no substitute for public safety services.
Imagine if in your area, there were no fire department, but only fire safety education. Would that be OK? How about if there were no police department, but only crime safety education? Communities like yours generate tremendous income from tourism that is focused on the beach and use of the adjacent ocean. In my view, that comes with a concurrent responsibility to provide reasonable levels of safety to those who visit. Since United States Lifesaving Association statistics demonstrate that the chance of death by drowning in an area protected by lifeguards is one in 18 million, I think you can see why many communities around the country, particularly where tourism is high, protect their residents and tourists alike by providing lifeguards.