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Know the Correct Way to Fly the Flag

With Flag Day on June 14 and Independence Day in July, summertime brings out many displays of the United States flag. Here are some key points to consider that will keep a city's flag displays in accordance with Public Law 94-344, known as the Flag Code.

Times for flying the flag
Flags are customarily flown only from sunrise to sunset, but flying them after dark while properly illuminating them is also considered appropriate.

Determining if a flag should be flown in weather conditions such as rain or high winds depends on how it is made. Weather damage to the flag should be avoided, but all-weather flags can be appropriately displayed in bad weather.

Lowering the flag to half staff
When raising a flag for a half-staff display, first hoist it to the peak of the pole before lowering it halfway. When taking the flag down, raise it to the top of the pole again, then lower it.

The right to order half-staff displays is reserved for the President of the United States and for governors, who can make the order for their states. The governor of South Carolina may order half-staff observances in tribute to firefighters and law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty or after a South Carolina resident and member of the military dies in combat. A half-staff display is also appropriate based on reliable information that the current or former president, current vice president, current or former U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, or current speaker of the house has died.

The SC Department of Administration's Division of Facilities Management and Property Services offers email alerts for half-staff observances. This can be useful both for knowing when to take the flag to half-staff and when answering residents' questions about why the flag is lowered on any given occasion.

Customary days to fly half-staff include:

  • Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15, unless it coincides with Armed Forces Day (sunrise – sunset);
  • Memorial Day, last Monday in May (sunrise – noon);
  • Patriot Day, September 11 (sunrise – sunset);
  • National Firefighters Memorial Day, typically a Sunday during Fire Prevention Week in October (sunrise – sunset); and
  • Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, December 7 (sunrise – sunset).

Displaying a flag indoors
Position the national flag to the right of a speaker or a stage area. Place other flags, such as the South Carolina state flag, to the left. When hanging the national flag on a wall, always position the star field, an element known as the union, at the top and to the left. When hanging the flag vertically, this can make the flag seem backward from its usual appearance, but this is actually correct.

Disposing of a flag
A ceremonial retirement in which the flag is burned should take place when a flag becomes too soiled or worn out for display. The most common example of excess wear is when the fly — or loose portion facing away from the pole — becomes shredded. Many veterans' groups and Boy Scout troops will provide flag retirement services.

A popular misconception holds that any flag that has touched the ground must be destroyed. While care should be taken to keep the flag from touching the ground, contact with the ground does not require destruction.

Find rules and an infographic on flying the flag correctly.