NORAD’s annual Santa Tracking program kicks into high gear
A little technology and a lot of magic
NORAD has its eye on the sky tracking Santa’s trip around the world this Christmas Eve with a variety of technology including radar and even satellites that track the infrared heat signature of Rudolph’s nose. Two Canadian fighter pilots safely escort from the jolly man from the North Pole to North America.
Stacey Knott with the NORAD Public Affairs Office says the tradition started all because of one little typo in a Sears ad.
“What happened was in 1955 a Sears Roebuck store here in Colorado Springs printed up an ad that said hey kiddies call and talk to Santa and it had a phone number. Well it had one number wrong and it actually went to the predecessor to NORAD. It went to the command center for the continental air defense command CONAD and to the dreaded red phone. The colonel on duty there picked up on it and he was expecting the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Secretary of Defense or something like that because this was the phone and instead this little tiny girl’s voice asked for Santa,” Knott says.
Colonel Harry Shoup, thought someone was playing a joke on him when he answered the phone. After talking to the girl and her mother, he figured out what had caused the confusion. Shoup checked the radar and told the little girl where Santa was.
“They started getting more phone calls, so he directed all of his staff to check the radar and check on Santa’s location and talk to the kids and from there a tradition was born. And that was in 1955. In 1958 NORAD took over from CONAD and we’ve been doing it ever since,” Knott says
For 26 hours on Dec. 24 and into the early hours of Dec. 25 a team of volunteers at the operations center will track Santa’s trip around the world. NORAD uses radar, satellites and fighter jets to track and escort Santa’s sleigh ride.
“We have 1,200 volunteers who help answer phone calls throughout that 26 hour period to tell people where Santa is at and you know that’s very important, because Santa won’t stop at your house if you’re still awake and not in bed. So we make sure that everyone knows where Santa is located,” Knott says.
The NORAD website will also features video from the “Santa Cams,” which NORAD has pre-positioned at many locations around the world to capture images and video of Santa as he and the reindeer fly by. The site also hosts a variety of games and a countdown to TrackSanta.
Knott says that NORAD volunteers enjoy the annual event.
“365 days a year NORAD is a bi-national command between the US and Canada and we’re providing homeland defense for North America. But on this one day a year we’re proud and honored to be a part of so many people’s holiday traditions and help track Santa for the world.”
Phone: 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723)