Five magical facts about the NORAD Tracks Santa Program
Illustrating the true magic of Christmas, this will be the 61st consecutive year that eager and anxious little boys and girls call the NORAD hotline (1- 877-HI-NORAD) to pepper operators with vital questions covering everything from Santa’s arrival time, to the speed of his sleigh, to the amount of cookie weight he gains throughout the night.
Last year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Program received a record number of calls, more than 141,000 over a 23-hour period, and the 1,500+ volunteers who will be manning the phones this Christmas Eve are expecting even more this holiday season.
While most of us have heard of this whimsical program by now, we know very little else other than the fact it makes us smile ear to ear. Therefore, in celebration of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program, here are five little-known facts about the initiative that has become a big holiday tradition for parents and children around the world:
1. It all started by accident!
NORAD Tracks Santa began more than 60 years ago with a simple typo. A Sears department store ad promoting a December 24th Santa hotline mistakenly listed the number of a top-secret phone line inside Continental Air Defense Command, a department in Colorado in charge of tracking airborne objects worldwide. Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty that night. Instead of telling the kids that they dialed the wrong number Shoup had his team “check the radar,” find Santa’s location and share the information with every child who called. Since then, thousands of volunteers and corporate contributors have helped NORAD keep the magic alive – turning the program into an enduring and beloved annual tradition.
2. Secret files on Santa?
Ever wonder how Santa can travel the world in 24 hours? What goes into his cutting-edge sleigh? How does he get down chimneys? Curious kids sure do, and lucky for them, all the answers are posted on NORADSanta.org. According to the website, while Santa’s flying over the United States, American NORAD fighter pilots in the F-15s, F16s or F-22s get the thrill of flying with the bearded big man and his famous reindeer. While Santa of course flies faster than any jet fighter, NORAD confirms he slows down and waves during the escort.
3. Military-grade technology supports the Santa tracking
As you may or may not know, NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command, a military operation run jointly by the United States and Canada that conducts aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning in defense of the continent. Yeah, so serious stuff! But here’s the real amazing part – volunteers use Avaya Customer Engagement technology to respond to the thousands of kids calling the hotline. That’s the same technology used to support the important mission of the NORAD Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., and other U.S. government agencies serving the American people. As a result, it has been extensively tested by the Department of Defense Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and is certified to be Santa-ready.
4. Volunteers hardly have time to catch their breath!
Volunteers working 157 contact center seats handled nearly 141,000 calls from 234 countries worldwide in 2015—which works out to about 40 calls per person, per hour. Volunteers typically sign up for two-hour shifts, and in the past First Lady Michelle Obama actually volunteered to take calls on (877) HI-NORAD. The phone lines open at 6 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 24, and will run through the early morning hours of Dec. 25.
5. Set up a call from Santa Claus
If tracking his location isn’t enough for your little one/s, this year you can actually use our free Zang Forget Me Not- Santa Edition service to send your child a pre-recorded voice message from Santa. While it’s not a part of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program, parents (or grandparents!) can use the service to set-up a message in less than five minutes with only a browser and a phone. From www.zang.io/northpole simply enter your telephone phone number, enter the recipient’s telephone number and pick the time you would like the recording to be delivered. When your child answers the phone, the pre-recorded greeting from Santa will automatically play. And if your family is busy and you happen to miss the call, the greeting will be directed to voicemail to listen to at a later time.
Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!