Half Staff Alerts

How Do Half Staff Proclamations Work?

Half-staff alerts are used to symbolize that our country is in mourning. These times of mourning are proclaimed by the president, for national remembrances, or governors, for local commemorations. National half-staff alerts apply to all federal buildings, grounds, and naval vessels throughout the United States, while state proclamations only apply locally. Although it is not required that businesses or residential properties adhere to half-staff declarations, many still lower their flags in solidarity.

What is the Difference Between Half-Staff and Half-Mast?

The terms half-staff and half-mast are often used interchangeably. However, these terms are specific to the location of the flagpole. Half-mast traditionally refers to ships and naval stations, while half-staff is more commonly used for flags on land.
A boat showing an American flag at half-mast and a half-staff flag on land.

How Long Should a Flag be Flown at Half Staff?

The president or governor will declare when and how long the flag will remain at half-staff in the proclamation. However, even if the flag should remain at half-staff for multiple days, the flag is only intended to be flown from sunrise to sunset each day.

How Do I Fly My Flag At Half-Staff?

When raising the American flag into a half-staff position, bring it to the top of the pole for just a moment before bringing it down halfway. You will do the same thing at sunset and bring it to the top of the pole before bringing it down for the night. The flag is typically flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset, except for Memorial Day, when it's from sunrise to noon.

Can't Fly the American Flag at Half Staff?

You can buy a mourning bow or mourning streamer for the top of your pole that will represent half-staff.

When are Set Times That the Flags Should be at Half-Staff?

For more information about flag flying holidays check out our flag flying holidays chart or download our free calendar.

Special Flag Flying Holidays

The First Sunday in May Fallen Firefighters Day
May 15th Peace Officers Memorial Day
The Last Monday in May Memorial Day
September 11th Patriot Day
December 7th Pearl Harbor Day

After the Death of an Elected Official

30 Days
  • The President of the United States
  • A Former President of the United States
  • 10 Days
  • The Vice President
  • Chief of Justice of the Supreme Court
  • Retired Chief of Justice of the Supreme Court
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives
  • Day of Death until Interment
  • An Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
  • A Member of the Cabinet
  • A Former Vice President
  • The President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  • The Majority Leader of the Senate
  • The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives
  • Day of Death and Day After
  • A US Senator
  • A US Representative
  • A Territorial Delegate
  • The Resident Commissioner from the
    Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  • Day of Death until Interment
    (in the specific state, territory,
    or possession)
  • The Governor of a State, Territory, or Possession

  • The president may order the flag to be flown at half-staff to mark the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries. In addition to these occasions, the president may order half-staff display of the flag after other tragic events.