In the United States, the President can issue an executive order for the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States government, and others, as a mark of respect to their memory. When such an order is issued, all government buildings, offices, public schools and military bases are to fly their flags at half-staff. Under federal law (4 U.S.C. 7(f)), the flags of states, cities, localities, and pennants of societies, shall never be placed above the flag of the United States; thus, all other flags also fly at half-staff when the U.S. flag has been ordered to fly at half-staff.
Governors of the several U.S. states or territories are authorized by federal law to order all U.S. and state flags in their jurisdiction flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for a state official or resident who has died. Since a governor's executive order affects only his or her state, not the entire country, these orders are distinguished from presidential proclamations.
U.S. Code provides that the flag of the United States is to be flown at half-staff in following circumstances:
- For thirty days after the death of a current or former president.
- For ten days after the death of a current vice president, chief justice, or speaker of the House of Representatives.
- From the day of death until interment of an associate justice of the Supreme Court, a secretary of an executive or military department, a former vice president, or the governor of a state, territory, or possession.
- On the day of death and the following day for a member of Congress- i.e. a senator, a representative, a delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.
- On Memorial Day until noon.
- Upon presidential proclamation, which have included: the remembrance of the 9/11 attacks, the death of Pope John Paul II, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and the death of Coretta Scott King.
US federal law requires the flag be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), unless that day is also Armed Forces Day. Yearly presidential proclamations also mandate that the flag be flown at half-staff on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (December 7) and National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day (July 27), September 11 (Patriot Day) may also have the flag flown at half-staff.
The flag of the United States may only properly be flown at half-staff pursuant to a provision of federal law, a presidential proclamation, or a gubernatorial proclamation in the state concerned. Under any other circumstance, the flag of the United States is supposed to be flown at full-staff.
Proper way to fold a Flag.