Jerry DotsonDecember 19, 2019

Merry and Bright, Tracking Santa in the Night

Cookies and milk? Check. Tree lights? Check. Stockings hung? Check. The only question left is…where in the world is Santa?

Over 60 years ago, a “Santa’s hotline” number was advertised for this purpose. Call the number, find out where Santa is along his gift-giving trek. The only problem? The number was a misprint. So, when one youngster stumbled upon the (seemingly discarded) ad, the call instead reached a commander at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado, U.S. And the calls kept coming.

Naturally, the commander didn’t want to spoil the holiday for callers expecting to reach Santa, so he had his staff provide updates on Santa’s travels. This gave way to a special tradition: NORAD Tracks Santa. The program is still going strong 64 years later, with Avaya’s mission-critical Customer Engagement technology supporting the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base where calls come in today.

It’s a big operation with thousands of volunteers who carefully monitor Santa’s travels (after all, researchers calculate that Santa would have to travel 1,280 miles per second to reach every child in the world). The volunteers ensure Santa’s safety using radars, satellites, planes, and Santa Cams strategically positioned worldwide. This information is shared with callers in real-time over a 20-hour period.  

There’s nothing quite like the magic of Christmastime. In today’s digital era, children can go beyond letter-writing to engage in an immersive experience of knowing where Santa is as he soars in the night sky. It’s a highlight for young and old around the world every Christmas Eve, with calls coming from all over.

During the 20-hour period in 2018, more than 1,500 hotline volunteers answered a record 137,158 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa 1-877 HI-NORAD hotline. The NORAD Tracks Santa website, available in eight languages, received 15.1 million visitors. More than 1.5 million people asked their Alexa devices “Hey, Alexa, where’s Santa?” and more than 10,000 people requested to track Santa through OnStar. We’re expecting these numbers to increase this year, and our contact center tech is ready to handle it. The 64th annual NORAD Tracks Santa is scheduled to begin 4 a.m. MST on Christmas Eve (December 24th) and end 12 a.m. MST Christmas morning.

Avaya & Norad Working Together

The same Avaya Government solutions used by NORAD Tracks Santa are deployed across other government agencies, meaning the technology has been tested extensively by the Department of Defense Joint Interoperability Test Command to be certified as Santa-ready.  

Here’s how you can join in on the fun this holiday season:

  • Call the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline number: 1-877-HI-NORAD
  • Visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website for family-friendly games, videos and information about Santa
  • Check in on YouTubeTwitter and Instagram for details on the big guy’s travels starting Christmas Eve

64 years ago, one call sparked a movement. The story behind NORAD Tracks Santa rings true today (pun intended). Every call is important, whether it’s an eager child waiting for that perfect gift from St. Nick; a traveler calling to confirm his hotel reservation; or a banking customer calling about a charge on her account. Every interaction should be an amazing one. Every experience matters.

In a way, every day is like Christmas here at Avaya. Like Santa visiting homes on Christmas Eve, we handle millions of customer calls, Web chats and texts around the globe each day, serving the world’s largest banks, health systems, airlines and more. We’re proud to serve so many, including the NORAD Tracks Santa program.

NORAD Tracks Santa is a cherished tradition worldwide. If you haven’t participated, consider doing so this year. Whoever you’re celebrating the holidays with, we know you’ll enjoy the experience.

Merry and Bright, Tracking Santa in the Night

Jerry Dotson

Jerry Dotson is the Vice President for Avaya Public Sector. Dotson oversees the design and implementation of communication services to support the various operations of DoD, Civilian, Intel, and SLED  customers.

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