NORAD Tracks Santa Breaks All-time Records
The North American Aerospace Defense Command’s NORAD Tracks Santa (NTS) Program exceeded its own records in the number of calls, e-mails and Facebook and Twitter followers on Christmas Eve, 2010. The program, which began after a misprinted ad in a local paper in 1955, has volunteers and NORAD staff answering queries on the location of Santa Claus as he circles the globe delivering presents on Christmas Eve.
More than 1,200 volunteers in the 25-hour NTS operations center answered 80,456 calls from children looking for Santa Claus (up almost nine percent from 2009). Volunteers ranged from Peterson Air Force Base family members volunteering their time to First Lady Michelle Obama, who answered NTS calls from Hawaii. They also answered 7,023 e-mails, which is double last year’s count.
The NTS Web site, www.noradsanta.org, had 15,476,016 unique visitors access the site from 227 countries and territories across the globe (up 16 percent from 2009), while visitors to the NTS Facebook page topped 715,000. More than 53,000 people also followed Santa’s progress on Twitter, which is nearly double the number from the previous year. The NTS site, featuring ultra-cool Google Earth maps and other interactive games, also offered photos, videos and lots of fun facts about Santa and his reindeer throughout the month of December.
“Throughout the year, the men and women of NORAD work hard to provide aerospace security for North America. But, for this one night every year, we are able to bring the magic of Christmas to children around the world,” said Jamie Graybeal, deputy Chief of Staff for Communication at NORAD. “We at NORAD are honored to be a part of so many peoples’ holiday traditions. Thank you to our many volunteers and our corporate sponsors for making this program possible, and we look forward to doing it again next year.”
The tradition begins
On December 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, CO. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a girl in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper — she wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.
On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and, rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.
Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958.