"An avalanche warning system will be a tool for making better assessments, but even if we get an avalanche warning system people must still think for themselves and make their own assessments about whether it is safe or not," said Jørgen Haagensli, director of the Longyearbyen Red Cross.
The warning system used on the mainland by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) rates the danger level from one (small) to five (very high).
"Those who die in avalanches die most often when there is danger level two or three. The rating applies to an entire area and does not necessarily match the mountainside you are driving on," Elke Morgner, a coordinator for the Red Cross.
Two weeks ago on Saturday she took a snow stability test for the Svalbard Satellite Station along the road up to the station. It showed no signs of instability. On the same day a fatal avalanche occurred in Fardalen. After that rough day another Red Cross snow profile was taken next to to the SvalSat road that showed fine, stable conditions.
Taking responsibility for yourself
Morgner said she fears a warning system could make people lax.
"Everyone has responsibility for their own safety," she said. "Avalanche warnings are a useful tool, but can't substitute for your own assessments."
Morgner said she believes it is important people take into account how much avalanche knowledge they have.
"If one cannot assess avalanche danger, one should stay away from steep areas," she said
"If one has knowledge, one can consider a slope and determine if it is safe to drive there or not."
In an article in today's newspaper, Wesley R. Farnsworth writes there is a lack of avalanche-related training in the Longyearbyen community.
Haagensli said both the Red Cross and The University Centre in Svalbard are big participants in preventative activities when it comes to avalanches. Each year, the Red Cross offers avalanche courses for all wishing to participate. This year's course ended on Monday. In addition, there are courses for university students. Many businesses also pay for avalanche courses for their employees.
"There is a lot of information for those who want it," he said. "So it's a matter of how far we should strive. This is something we use our spare time on."