6 Curious Facts about NORAD’s Santa-Tracking Program

On Christmas Eve each year, hundreds of thousands of children around the world tune into their local TV news stations, search online and call a special hotline number seeking the answer to a very important question: Where is Santa right now?

Last year, 134,970 children called (877) HI-NORAD (877-446-6723) to get Santa’s location on Christmas Eve, and answers to other important Santa-related questions, such as, “How much weight does Santa gain from eating all those cookies?”

Avaya was one of the program’s first technology partners, and is proud again this year to provide the hardware and software powering the program’s 157 contact center seats. We’ve compiled 6 curious facts about the program, how it works, and how it all got started:

#6: This is the 60th anniversary of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program

On Christmas Eve in 1955, a Sears Roebuck department store in Colorado Springs invited kids to call Santa directly at the North Pole, by dialing ME 2-6681 (phone numbers were shorter back then). The newspaper misprinted the number, which instead routed to a top-secret phone line inside Continental Air Defense Command, the department in charge of tracking airborne objects worldwide. Rather than hanging up on the kids who called in, the department instead gave them live updates on Santa’s exact location. They’ve been doing so on Christmas Eve ever since.

#5: Santa starts his journey in the South Pacific

The Continental Air Defense Command (which later became the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD) has been closely studying Santa’s path for 60 years, and reports he usually begins his journey in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, before heading west.

#4: Santa traditionally visits each time zone around midnight

Everyone knows Santa has a very big job on Christmas Eve, delivering presents to billions of households worldwide. In their research, the scientists at NORAD have found Santa generally appears locally around midnight on Dec. 24, long after children have gone to bed. He has to work quickly, delivering presents and eating cookies at thousands of homes every minute.

#3: NORAD tracks Santa using a variety of high-tech tools

NORAD steadily improves its global object-tracking technology each year, using a mix of radar, satellite, jets, and other sophisticated detection systems to track Santa. Special Santa Cams set up at important world landmarks capture him zooming through the sky on his sleigh. Video from those Santa Cams are posted online each hour at www.noradsanta.org. Many television news stations use NORAD data to provide live updates to viewers on Santa’s current location.

#2: Volunteers handle an average of 40 calls per hour on (877) HI-NORAD

Volunteers working 157 contact center seats handled nearly 135,000 calls from 234 countries worldwide in 2014—which works out to about 40 calls per person, per hour. Volunteers typically sign up for two-hour shifts. The phone lines open at 6 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 24, and will run through the early morning hours of Dec. 25.

#1: You might get Michelle Obama on the phone

First Lady Michelle Obama has volunteered to take calls on (877) HI-NORAD in the past. If you call in this year, you just might talk to Mrs. Obama!

For more information, or to track Santa’s location online, visit www.noradsanta.org.

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