Flying Your Flag at Half-Staff - What You Need to Know

Mar 16th, 2016

 Flying your flag at half staff, also referred to as half mast, means that you lower your flag to the half way point of the staff of your flagpole. Lowering the flag is used as a symbol of honor, mourning, or remembrance.

 

Half-staff flag

 

Who Can Request/Order Half-Staff

 

Requests, or orders, to fly the flag at half-staff can be proclaimed by the president of the United States, or by the government officials of states and territories. The heads of federal agencies also have the authority to proclaim half-staff flags on the buildings, grounds, and/or naval vessels that they have jurisdiction over.

 

The U.S. Flag Code dictates that the president of the United States must issue an order for the flag to be flown at half-staff at the death of U.S. government principal figures, and the governors of states, territories, and U.S. possessions. The President and state governors also have the authority to order the flag flown at half-staff at the death of other officials and significant citizens or foreign dignitaries, as long as those orders do not violate relevant laws.

 

It should be noted that there is nothing in the U.S. Flag Code that prohibits non-governmental buildings, organizations, or American citizens from flying their flags at half-staff to honor a local leader, hero, or any other person. The Code is for guidance purposes only and is only required for government and public buildings.

 

Hours For Flying at Half-Staff

 

On most days that the U.S. flag is ordered to be flown at half-staff, it should be flown in that position from sunrise to sunset. The exception to this rule is on Memorial Day when the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon.

 

Number of Days for Flying Flag at Half-Staff

 

The person in authority who orders the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff may dictate the length of time that it should be flown in that manner. As a general rule, at the death of a vice president, chief justice (or retired chief justice), or speaker of the house, the U.S. flag should be flown at half-staff for ten days. When there is a death of a President, or a former President, it should be flown in that manner for 30 days.

 

The U.S. Flag Code sets out particular days of the year that the American flag should be flown at half-staff. On those days, the flag should be flown in that manner from sunrise to sunset. The exception to that rule is Memorial Day. That day has been designated to honor those who have died while serving the United States. On Memorial Day, the flag should be flown at half-staff until noon and then raised to the top of the flagpole until sundown.

 

Proper Procedure to Fly Your Flag at Half-Staff

 

To show respect, you should briskly hoist your flat to finial (top of your flagpole) for an instant, and then lower the flag to the middle of the flagpole. When taking the flag down at the end of the day, you should also hoist the flag all the way to the top of the flagpole for an instant, and then lower it to the point that you can take it down without the flag touching the ground.

 

What If You Cannot Lower Your Flag

 

Many flags attached to homes, buildings, and other objects that are mounted on a fixed pole that cannot be lowered. The proper procedure in those cases, according to the American Legion, is to attach a black streamer to the top of the flag. The streamer proportions should be the length of the flag and the width of a stripe on the flag.

 

Flagpoles Etc.

 

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