When Should You Lower the Flag at Half-Staff?

There are specific rules to follow when you fly an American flag. Some rules include taking your flag down at night if you don’t have a light, not letting it touch the ground, and not wearing it as an accessory. When should you lower your American flag at half-staff?

History of Flags at Half-Staff

The oldest reference to flying a flag at half-staff traces back to the early 1600s. The captain of the Heart’s Ease, a British ship, tragically died on their way to Canada. Upon its return to London, the ship’s crew decided to lower the flag in honor of their departed captain, creating the tradition of flying flags at half-mast on days of mourning.


The significance of lowering an American flag at half-staff is a sign of mourning and grief following the death of government officials, on various holidays that signify remembrance, and in times of national distress. The Flag Code has specific instructions for lowering your American flag and the best time frame for flying it.

When Should It Be at Half-Staff?

American flags should fly at half-staff for 30 days at all federal grounds, buildings, and naval vessels throughout the United States and territories or possessions after the passing of current or former presidents. In addition, when a vice president, chief of justice, retired chief of justice, or speaker of the House of Representatives passes away, the American flag flies at half-staff for ten days.

Special holidays also require American flags to fly at half-staff, including Memorial Day, National Pearl Harbor Remembrance, Patriot Day, Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the First Sunday of Fire Prevention Week. It respects those who represent the country and do their part to make it safe.

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