Getting ready for Christmas Eve at Peterson Air Force Base takes a lot more than hanging the stockings by the chimney with care.
Miles of wire, dozens of computers and 157 telephone lines will greet hundreds of volunteers as they answer calls from an estimated 125,000 children around the globe looking for Santa's whereabouts Thursday. They'll get the answer from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which has been working for weeks to tackle the one-day mission.
"We keep adding stuff every year," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Kelly after he and a team of airmen taped down phone wires in the call center Monday.
The call center in a training building will be staffed for 23 hours on Christmas Eve, and volunteers also will share Santa's location on Facebook and Twitter. Santa's journey can also be followed at noradsanta.org.
"We start in November," Kelly said. "We have to test every phone before we bring it in here."
NORAD's 60th year of tracking Santa involves more than the military. The whole program is underwritten by contractors who pay for the phones, the computers and the website.
Level 3 Communications in Broomfield is using its computer network to support the trackers. Tracy Shaufler, Level 3 general manager, said the tracking puts her workers in the holiday mood.
"Our employees really love this program," she said.
Verizon, which pays for the tracker's 1-877-HI-NORAD number, encourages workers to volunteer to pitch in on Christmas Eve.
"We provide volunteers to fill two shifts," Verizon's Steve Smiley said.
Another expected volunteer is first lady Michelle Obama, who will have calls forwarded to her on Christmas Eve.
Those volunteers will field a growing number of calls from curious kids from outside the United States.
"We get a lot of calls from Europe, Australia and New Zealand," said NORAD's Stacey Knott, who has organized the Santa tracking for three years.
Knott said volunteers are getting used to fielding foreign-language Santa inquiries and transferring those calls to bilingual volunteers.
On the bilingual front, NORAD, a partnership between the U.S. and Canada, has a distinct advantage.
"The great thing about having Canadian forces here is they can speak in French," Canadian Maj. Jennifer Stadnyk said.
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