When should the flag be at half-staff?

Apr 2nd, 2019

When should the flag be at half-staff?

(a) The flag is half-staffed on Memorial Day, from sunrise until noon; it is displayed at full-staff from noon until sunset.

(b) By order of the President of the United States, or by the Governor of any State, territory or possession. On occasion, heads of several departments and agencies of the U.S. Government may direct the flag to half-staff if deemed proper to do so.

Some reasons may include:

  • Patriot Day, September 11th (sunrise to sunset)
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7th (sunrise to sunset)
  • National Firefighters Memorial Day, October (typically a Sunday during Fire Prevention Week and along with a memorial service held in Emmitsburg, MD)
  • Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15th, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day. (sunrise to sunset)
  • Other specific, notified events.


Other rules for flying your flag at half-staff:

  • Most half-staff days suggest that the American flag is at half-staff from sunrise until sunset on the days of the order. Memorial Day is the exception where the American flag is at half-staff from sunrise until noon.
  • When raising the American flag to half-staff on a vertical pole, always raise it briskly to the top of the flagpole for a moment before lowering it. When taking it down for the night, raise it to the top of the flag pole again and lower it to the bottom.
  • With a telescoping pole it is acceptable to put the American flag on the second set of rings instead of the top set. In this case the top set would be left empty.
  • When the American flag is flown at half-staff, state and other flags should be removed or flown at half-staff too.


Who can order a half-staffing?

  • Only the President and state governors can decide when and how long the American flag should be flown at half-staff.


What about half-staff to honor other citizens?

  • Only the president of the United States or the governor of the state may order the flag to be at half-staff to honor the death of a national or state figure. In addition to the traditional half-staff salutes, the United States Flag Code mentions the use of our flag for honoring leading citizens such as Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • There are occasions when the flag will be lowered for significant figures whom are not U.S. citizens. Examples include: Nelson Mandela in 2013, Pope John Paul II in 2005, King Hussein of Jordan in 1999, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1965, United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in 1961.
  • Private citizens and non-government buildings may choose to fly their flags at half-staff to honor more local leaders. The Flag Code does not exclude any citizen, whether belonging to an organization or not, whether they are recognized very locally or regionally. Examples of deceased citizens who might be honored with by lowering the flag to half-staff include local religious leaders, youth leaders, honored teachers or sports coaches, local politicians, or a local hero. There need be no authorization from the government for the private sector (non-government) to use the Flag to honor any citizen.
  • It is important to note that the Flag Code is a code, it is intended to provide guidance and is not obligatory. It carries no civil or criminal penalties for "misuse" of the Flag. Individuals are not acting illegally when using the flag according to their own rules. The Flag Code is only required to be followed on public or government buildings.

Half-staff Flag