Is flying the flag at half staff for disaster victims something new?

I noticed the flags flying at half staff for the last week or so and wondered if that was to honor Rehnquist or the hurricane victims. Turns out it’s both.

It’s certainly common practice to put flags at half staff upon the deaths of prominent government figures, but I’m not sure I remember doing so for disaster victims. What are the precedents for flying flags at half staff for disaster victims? Or is this something new?

I don’t know but it can be run into the ground and probably will be. If this practice is continued seeing the flag a full staff will become the unusual thing.

Looking over a list of presidential proclamations I found:

9/11/01 - Flags at half-staff in honor of the victims of 9/11
2/1/03 - Flags at half-staff in honor of the Columbia explosion
1/1/05 - Flags at half-staff in honor of the victims of the Asian tsunami
9/4/05 - Flags at half-staff in honor of the victims of Katrina

I found these searching under both “flag” and under “honor”.

The flew the flag at half-mast for the last episode of Frasier. The ritual has become entirely stripped of its meaning.

Who’s “they?” Anybody can fly their flag however they want, but only the President orders the flag to half-staff for all federal buildings, military bases and embassies.

I have had a flag at home flown upside down since November, 2000.

According to the United States Flag Code:

The governor of a state* has similar authority to order the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff upon the death of a current or former official of said state’s government. Cabinet secretaries, legislators, mayors, and other officials – whether federal, state, or local – are given no such authority, regardless of the curcumstances. Similarly, nobody is expressly given authority to order the half-staff memorial honor for any American who never served as a government official.

*throughout this paragraph, the word “state” is shorthand for “state, territory, or possession”

Yay, politics in GQ! And with no content to boot!

When seven Guardsmen from Pennsylvania were killed in Iraq, Gov. Rendell ordered the flags in PA to fly at half-staff. Governors can order that for state-level memorials.