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NORAD and 1,500 volunteers set for 62nd annual Santa tracking

By: Tony Peck, Special to The Gazette
December 23, 2017 Updated: December 24, 2017 at 10:48 am
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FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2010 file photo, Air Force Lt. Col. David Hanson, of Chicago, takes a phone call from a child in Florida at the Santa Tracking Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo. Santa is already piling up monster numbers on social networking sites this season, so the volunteer Santa-trackers at NORAD are bracing for tens of thousands of calls and emails when their operations center goes live on Christmas Eve. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

On Christmas Eve children around the globe will be wondering one thing: Where in the world is Santa Claus?

To answer that question, the North American Aerospace Defense Command has mobilized its Santa tracking operations center for the 62nd year in a row.

"We open up for volunteers a month before we start receiving phone calls," said Canadian Navy Lt. Marco Chouinard, the NORAD Santa-tracking spokesman.

Chouinard explained that there are no shortage of volunteers leading up to the big day. And many have volunteered before.

"It is sort of a family tradition," he chuckled.

The tradition started back in 1955 when a Sears Christmas advertisement ran the wrong number in the Colorado Springs Gazette.

The number was a direct line to the Continental Air Defense Command, a precursor to NORAD.

A few lucky Air Force officers ended up fielding calls from curious children, wondering where Santa was. This Christmas Eve, 1,500 volunteers will staff phones and computers at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Over the course of 24 hours, they will answer over 150,000 phone calls to the hot line - 1-877-446-6723.

The services provided by these good Samaritans is extensive.

"We gather them up early, they start at 4am on the 24th," explained Chouinard. "After a quick briefing, they work in two-hour blocks."

Those two hours are packed full of festive frenzy.

In addition to answering 40 phone calls an hour, volunteers manage multimedia accounts and the Santa tracker website - noradsanta.org.

Last year the website had more than 60 million visits and their Twitter account has grown to 172 thousand followers.

"The numbers keep on growing," said Chouinard. "Last year was a new record."

Last year was also the first time that people could watch what was happening inside the operations center throughout the day.

"We installed two or three cameras that were hooked up to Facebook live," said Chouinard.

This year they plan to use the streaming service even more.

"We already used it last week, as we were decorating all the rooms," he said.

As the sponsors and volunteers put the finishing touches on the operations center, families around the world come together for Christmas.

Chouinard expects those families to call from every corner of the globe on Christmas Eve.

"We even get a lot of participation from Japan and the United Kingdom," he said.

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