BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – It’s the most magical time of year, as children around the world eagerly await a visit all the way from the North Pole on Dec. 24. For the 20th year, the elves at Verizon are partnering with the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to provide a toll-free hotline for children to track Santa’s whereabouts as he and his reindeer travel across the globe to spread holiday cheer.
The elves at Verizon have been busy in the workshop this year to enable children around the globe to connect with NORAD volunteers on all their burning questions, from Santa’s location to the names of the reindeer and the best cookies to leave out for that special visit. This year, Verizon has rapidly expanded 5G service across the nation and now covers more than 175 million people with 5G Ultra Wideband service, allowing NORAD volunteers to connect faster and with more people including an advanced 5G on-site network, and an enhanced tracker to monitor call volume for Santa.
“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.”
The Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) allows the children who call in to interact with the system and learn exactly where Santa is in his flight. Also, to ensure that every call is a positive experience for the children, should an elf not be available, Verizon Business Consulting Services engineers designed and deployed a call management system with error handling software (failover logic). This means that even if the child cannot reach a call center volunteer, they will be told where Santa is at that point in time.
“From the very beginning, 20 years ago, the Verizon Business Consulting Services team has and continues to play a critical role in the initial design and deployment of the Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) that is so critical to connecting children with Santa,” said Tara Sunderraj, Vice President for Verizon Business Consulting Services. “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.”
Meanwhile, after almost a year of planning, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, a 78-foot red spruce affectionately called “Ruby,” was harvested from the Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, N.C. The harvest ceremony took place November 2, and the Verizon Frontline Crisis Response Team provided critical connectivity to the U.S. Forest Service during the event to help ensure Ruby could be safely cut down and placed on a specialized tractor trailer for its long journey to the U.S. Capitol lawn.
In addition to connecting and supporting the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline and operations center, nearly 900 in-person and over 200 virtual volunteers, which include Verizon employees, military personnel and other government and corporate partners, will come together to make the magic of NORAD Tracks Santa possible again this year. Thousands of children will be able to contact NORAD on Dec. 24 for answers to important questions such as:
- Where is Santa?
- When will Santa come to my house?
- Where is Mrs. Claus during the journey?
- What are Santa’s favorite cookies?
- How many elves are helping Santa?
- Which reindeer is helping to lead the journey this year?
Tools to help track St. Nick
Volunteers will be onsite in NORAD’s call center. Here is information on the hotline along with other methods children and their families are encouraged to utilize to track Santa:
Phone: The toll-free hotline – 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) – will be in operation for calls beginning at 6AM (Eastern Standard Time) on Dec. 24. Program the hotline number into your Verizon phone as “NORAD Call Center.” On Christmas Eve, have your child use the voice command to call the NORAD Call Center, and enjoy NORAD’s Santa Tracker as volunteers do their best to answer your child’s pressing questions.
Online: On Dec. 24, families can also visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website with links to several ‘SantaCams’ on NORAD Tracks Santa’s social media pages that capture Santa’s flight through various locations around the world. To experience the magic throughout the day, visit the website www.noradsanta.org on desktop or mobile for more fun activities. While Santa is in flight, children can see his whereabouts, play games, learn about holiday traditions around the world and dive deeper on how NORAD tracks Santa.
For more information on Santa’s whereabouts, visit https://www.noradsanta.org/ or track via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Be sure to also download the NORAD Tracks Santa mobile app (Apple or Google Play).