SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A system established to protect the U.S. and Canada 24-hours-a-day-seven-days-a-week for 365 days a year is serious about tracking Santa.
The North American Aerospace Air Command based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been tracking Santa Claus’ Christmas Eve journey around the world for 66 years.
NORAD is a bi-national command center with military and civilian employees working 24-hours-a-day, said Capt. Sable Brown of NORAD public affairs.
“It’s the system we use every day to protect the U.S. and Canada,” Brown said of the NORAD system used to track Santa Claus.
Satellites track the journey and infrared heat equipment can sense Rudolph’s red nose, Brown said.
Escort planes “are always on alert,” Brown said. Escort planes meet Santa at the border to safely escort him into Canada and the U.S.
This year will be Brown’s second year with the Santa Tracker.
“I like being able to be a part of an incredible tradition,” Brown said of the Santa Tracker.
The annual tradition is a chance to share about the Santa Tracker but also about NORAD’s role in aerospace security.
As the child of two Air Force parents, Brown said she grew up watching the NORAD Santa Tracker.
Meteorologist Scott Doering of the National Weather Service in Aberdeen recalls getting Santa Tracker updates on the TV news as a kid during the 1980s.
The Santa Tracker system has grown in 66 years.
It’s not a blip on radar screen. It’s a fully developed website that shares information about NORAD and Santa Claus. The website has information about Santa and his sleigh, Santa’s favorite holiday songs as well as holiday arcade games.
Individuals can also track Santa through two mobile applications.
The website shows Santa’s journey across the world. Doering said it’s great way to learn some geography.
“You can learn about places in the world. It shows the different countries and cities that Santa is in,” Doering said.
The website shows a map and sometimes, the map will include a photo of the site Santa just visited.
There will be about 500 volunteers tracking Santa and answering phone calls during Santa’s journey, Brown said.
“The incredible energy the volunteers bring,” Brown said is a highlight of the program. “They are so enthusiastic.”
NORAD has bilingual volunteers because calls come from around the world, Brown said.
The website has information in eight languages, she said.
Volunteers offer their service as early as October, Brown said. Many are experienced but NORAD has tracked common questions to help new volunteers in their roles.
The Santa tracker is shown on a large screen. “As calls come in volunteers can see where Santa is,” Brown said.
Santa’s journey starts at 4 a.m. Mountain Time on Christmas Eve and concludes at 2 a.m. Mountain Time on Christmas Day.
The number to call is 1-877 HI-NORAD. You can track Santa online here.