In keeping with tradition, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed it has a special mission on Dec. 24: to track Santa’s Christmas journey, marking its 67th year of tracking Santa’s whereabouts as he and his reindeer travel around the world.

The command, part of the Department of Defense (DoD), typically tracks airplanes, missiles, and space launches, using its satellites equipped with infrared sensors. But on Dec. 24, the command can track Santa’s sleigh by detecting Rudolph’s bright red nose, which gives off an infrared signature similar to a missile launch.

Kids can track Santa on Christmas Eve through the NORAD Tracks Santa website, the official NORAD Tracks Santa app, or by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723).

The Santa tracking effort is made possible entirely by volunteers, with more than 1,250 Canadian and American uniformed personnel and DoD civilians volunteering their time to answer the thousands of phone calls that come in from around the world.

The effort is also made possible by industry partners, such as Verizon. This year marks the 20th year that Verizon has partnered with NORAD to provide the toll-free hotline.

“For 20 years, our elves at Verizon have been honored to provide the network America relies on for the NORAD Tracks Santa initiative that delights millions of children,” said Maggie Hallbach, senior vice president, Public Sector at Verizon Business. “There is no greater joy than being able to support our partners at NORAD to bring the magical Santa tracking tradition to life.”

“Through the years, as technology has evolved, so have our roles, from development to assisting with the overall design and audio messages that let the children actually interact with Santa’s elves,” added Tara Sunderraj, vice president for Verizon Business Consulting Services.

As always, the NORAD website reminds trackers that Santa only visits the houses of children that are sleeping. If children are still awake when Santa arrives, he will move on to other houses and return once they are asleep.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.