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Flag Protocol

Flag placement can be a particularly sensitive issue. These symbols of respect warrant detailed attention in order to avoid an embarrassing situation due to an improperly flown flag. If you are going to fly a foreign flag at a business meeting or formal gathering, be certain you are flying an up-to-date flag and make sure you know how it should be flown. Do your homework. Be careful with certain flags, particularly the Union Jack (the United Kingdom’s flag) and the Panamanian flag. It is very easy to accidentally fly these flags upside down, which is a sign of distress at sea and a clear affront to your guests. Refer to the resources listed at the end of this section for additional guidance.

Did you know?

The positions of honor in displaying flags are:

  • U.S. flag either to the observer’s extreme left or the highest point in the grouping of flags followed by the flag or flags of other nations in alphabetical order.
  • Then, the N.C. flag, followed by the flags of any other states in order by ratification date of the U.S. Constitution or date of admission to the Union.
  • Any county or city flags would follow the state flags.
If flags of two or more nations are displayed, they should be flags of equal size flown from separate staffs at the same height.

(Image Courtesy The American Legion)

When a number of flags of States and localities are grouped and displayed from separate staffs grouped around a central point, the flags should be displayed as follows:
  • The U.S. flag should be at the center and at the highest point of the grouping.
  • Any foreign country’s flag would then take the next place of honor (observer’s extreme left). If there is no foreign flag, then the N.C. flag would take the place of honor to the observer’s extreme left.
  • On a halyard, the U.S. flag always sits atop those flags of States, cities, or localities.

When placed at or near a speaker’s podium, the U.S. flag should receive the place of superior prominence to the speaker’s right as he/she faces the audience. Any other flags should be to the speaker’s left or to the right of the audience.

Exception: When flags are not placed within the section designated as the chancel or speaker’s area (i.e. in the front of an auditorium, but at the audience level), the national flag should be placed in the position of honor to the right of the audience, with any other flag at the left.

  • If displayed with another flag against a wall with crossed staffs, the U.S. flag’s staff should always be in front of the staff of the other flag and the bottom of the staff should be on the flag’s own right.
  • If displayed flat, the national flag should be above and behind the speaker or podium.
  • The flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.
  • No other flag or pennant should be placed above or, if on the same level, to the right of the U.S. flag.

Flag Protocol Resources

websites-- The U.S. Flag Code; Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10 can be found at "" or at ""

Flags of the World includes more than 65,000 pages about flags and more than 129,000 images of flags and can be found at ""

The CIA World Factbook is produced by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence. The Factbook is a comprehensive resource of facts and statistics on more than 250 countries and other entities and includes images of each country’s flag.

Books –

Protocol – The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official, and Social Usage. McCaffree, Mary Jane and Innis, Pauline. Devon Publishing Co. 1997. Pp. 351-379.

Practical Protocol for Floridians. Morris, Allen. Revised 5th Edition. 1993. Pp. 104-113
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