Flag Flying Protocol

In a U.S. city, outside a municipal building are three flagpoles flying the U.S., state, and city flag, respectively. The U.S. flag is fully raised, the state and city are at half-staff.

I have also seen, at this same building and set of flagpoles, the U.S. and state flags fully raised and the city at half-staff.

Is this commonly accepted protocol? Perhaps in honor of a local individual?


I don’t know if its common or accepted practice but I have seen the same thing. If someone is just locally important only the city flag is half-staff. If its someone important to the entire state but they don’t get a “national” designation, the state flag is lowered to half-staff as well. Only when the POTUS orders “Old Glory” at half does that one join to make three-of-a-kind. Think of it this way – Mayor Bob only has the authority over “his” flag, Governor Stan only over his state flag; above that you just have to be President.

Wiki has the usual pretty good explanation of the more standard routes at least at the Federal level at

Not true, the Governor of most (if not all) states can order the US flag to be flown at half-staff.

Quite possible; the places I checked fast were a little slim on just how far The Gov’s (anyone else flashing back to Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles?) power went in that respect.

FWIW, the protocol in the Great White North is that all flags in a display are half-masted.

Some places will fly all flags other than the U.S. flag a little lower, just to give it pride of place, even if no one is being mourned. Under the U.S. Flag Code, they may all be flown at the same height, but the U.S. flag is supposed to be in the place of honor - at the end of the row on the flag’s “own” right, that is, all the way to the viewer’s left, as seen from the street or sidewalk.

I know this is what’s always said, but I always wondered how you were supposed to tell which way the flag was facing so you could tell which was it’s own right. I asked this quite honestly at camp one year and got into trouble for being a smart mouth.

I suppose now the idea is that the flag is always facing the observer. though if that were the case it would be easier to say observer’s left I’d think. And I’ve seen many cases when flags were in the middle of two walkways.

Here’s a quote from the Flag Code:

In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff.

I worked at a large international company which flew the national flags of all their affiliates. When the US flag was ordered to half-staff, the other nations’ flags were removed. The US does not have the authority to lower another nation’s flag, but no other flag shall stand higher than the Stars and Stripes, so the only alternative is to remove them from their poles.

Consider the parade of nations at the Olympics…the US Standard Bearer does not dip the flag to the host nation as the other countries do. I like it.

Never seen it defined, but customarily it’s where most observers will be - just outside of a building, for instance, it would be on the observer’s left. If as many people would be seeing the flag from one side as from the other, I suppose it doesn’t matter.

what makes your flag more important than others?

The rule is no flag can fly higher than the US flag. Therefore, it is ok for a State or Local flag to fly lower to recognize the passing of a State or Local official.

We Americans consider it such, and the U.S. Flag Code reflects that. Other countries are certainly free to say that their flags ought not to be dipped in salute to anyone, either.