Tracking Santa with NORAD, 900 volunteers

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — For the past 67 years, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has helped children across the globe know exactly where Santa is.

When it comes to how the lines started ringing, it started as a misprint in a local advertisement in 1955.

Inside of NORAD operations center where Santa will be tracked.

“So, kids were calling. A young kid called and an Air Force colonel picked up the line and decided, you know what I’m going to play along,” Col. Candice Pipes said. “So he played along and that is what started what we now call NORAD Tracks Santa.”

A big smile appeared on Pipes’ face when she shared that this was her first year participating in tracking Kris Kringle.

“So, I’ve actually never done it, I get to do it for the first time this year. It’s a bucket list,” Pipes said. “I am super excited to do it, but I can imagine that it is bustling with 150,000 phone calls coming in. We answer about 54,000 of those. So, if you don’t get a real person, you’ll still get an update on where Santa is.”

If someone cannot pick up your call it will instead go to a message and give you a live update of where Santa is.

Calls are taken from all over the world and can be answered in eight different languages.

“We have information in eight different languages including English, French, German, Spanish, and Chinese, and on the call line, we’ll have up to 20 other languages represented so that when people call from around the world, they can talk to somebody who can tell them where Santa is,” Pipes said.

On Christmas Eve, over 900 volunteers will work to help track Santa. Callers will work in two-hour shifts throughout the night.

“We’re really excited this year. Last year, because of COVID restrictions, we were only able to have about 500 volunteers,” Pipes said. “This year we have 900 in-person volunteers. They are U.S. and Canadian uniform military personnel, DOD civilian employees, and community members from around our local community all volunteering to answer calls.”

Besides calling to ask for Santa’s location, you can also go online or download the NORAD app.

Tracking for Santa will begin right when Santa leaves the North Pole.

“So, what we know is that Santa usually leaves the North Pole around 6 a.m. Eastern Time when our North American children are still snuggled up in their beds,” Pipes said. “He starts about the international dateline and heads west and so we’ll start tracking them as soon as he leaves the North Pole and we see Rudolph’s nose and his heat signature.”

One tip Pipes shared was making sure children are asleep early in order for Santa to come and deliver presents.

“What we know is that Santa generally arrives at houses between 9 p.m. and midnight,” Pipes said. “We’re not sure exactly when during that timeframe he’s going to end up at your house. So we encourage all kids to be in bed by 9 p.m. because as you know, Santa only shows up at your house if you’re asleep.”

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