NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The North American Aerospace Defense Command will help families around the world track Santa for the 61st year.
Tracking Santa began in 1955 when a local media advertisement directed children to call Santa direct, but the number given out was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center.
NORAD has carried on the tradition of tracking Santa since it was created in 1958.
HOW DOES NORAD TRACK SANTA?
A system of radar stations and satellites monitor all air traffic entering U.S. and Canadian airspace. All aircraft have a code to identify themselves. If an aircraft doesn’t have a code, NORAD can scramble jets to see who it is and what they’re doing, said Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier, an Alaska NORAD spokesman.
Luckily, Santa is good at keeping in touch with NORAD, Gordinier said.
“When he pops up, we call him Big Red One,” he said. “That’s his call sign.”
The nose on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a tipoff. It gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch, Gordinier said.
WHAT IS SANTA’S ROUTE?
On his mythical journey, Santa generally departs the North Pole, flies to the international date line over the Pacific Ocean, then begins deliveries in island nations. He then works his way west in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Alaska is usually his last stop before heading home, Gordinier said.
HOW DO CHILDREN PARTICIPATE?
For 23 hours covering most of Christmas Eve, children can call a toll-free number, 877-446-6723 (877-Hi-NORAD) and speak to a live phone operator about Santa’s whereabouts.
They can also send an email to email@example.com.
NORAD has 157 telephone lines and hundreds of volunteers ready to answer calls.
The sites include games, movies and music. “Santacams” stream videos from various locations.
HOW DID NORAD GET INVOLVED WITH TRACKING SANTA?
A 1955 newspaper advertisement for Sears Roebuck and Co. listed a phone number for “kiddies” to call Santa Claus but got it wrong.
The number was for a crisis phone at Air Operations Center at Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Air Force Col. Harry Shoup took a call from a child and thought he was being pranked. When he figured out he was talking to a little boy, he pretended he was Santa.
More children called. Shoop eventually instructed airmen answering the phone to offer Santa’s radar location as he crossed the globe. That sparked the tradition.
Google has also joined in on the tracking of Santa. Click here to view the company’s tracker.