While all eyes will be on the skies searching for Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, the men and women of NORAD know exactly where the jolly old elf is – and they’ll tell you if you ask!
Starting Sunday at 6 a.m. EST, anyone who wants to know Santa’s location can call NORAD, which uses advanced technology to track everything in space and the skies around us. The joint US-Canadian command is based at Petersen Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. A live webcast of Santa’s preparations begins at 2:01 a.m. EST on Christmas Eve, and then NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream videos as Santa flies around the world.
NORAD annually stages the tracking effort on behalf of kids across the globe, taking calls from children who want to know if they’re on the naughty or nice list, whether Santa got their last-minute present requests, and even if he can find them if they’re not sleeping at home tonight. (The answers: Only Santa knows; he gets an update from NORAD every 12 minutes; and yes, he absolutely can.)
“It’s a unique capability that NORAD has,” said Canadian Army Maj. Andrew Hennessey.
The Santa tracking tradition began in 1955 after a Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of Santa, children reached the commander-in-chief’s hotline at CONAD, the U.S. Continental Air Defense Command.
Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations, instructed his staff to check the radar for signs of Santa traveling south from the North Pole and give the children updates. The practice continued and was taken over in 1958 by NORAD, the bi-national air defense command for North America, run by the governments of Canada and the United States.
The tracking effort, now in its 62nd year, is run by NORAD staff, working as volunteers, along with their family members and people from the Colorado Springs area. Last year, more than 1,500 volunteers staffed the hotline, which received about 154,000 calls. The website saw 56 million views, and staff also received 28,000 emails.
The tracker now also has smartphone apps for iPhone and Android devices, while Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location through the NORAD Tracks Santa skill. OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa. Bing and Cortana users can also find Santa’s location on Dec. 24.
NORAD works with a variety of partners to support the tracker, including Microsoft and telephone-system company Avaya.
“We are hoping for another record-setting year for NORAD Tracks Santa and a delightful experience for each and every caller and volunteer,” said Avaya spokesman Jerry Dotson.