Field excursion AGF-212, March 2012. Photo: Jacob Abermann/UNIS
Photo: Jacob Abermann/UNIS
Arctic Safety Conference 2021


The natural environment in the high north is undergoing rapid change while at the same time the interest in presence and economic development in the region has never been greater. As a consequence, the need for increased competence and sharing of experience in how to operate in a safe and environmental manner in the high Arctic is acute and extremely relevant. Both the location of UNIS and years of experience collection related to Arctic safety make Svalbard an excellent location for an Arctic safety competence center. There is already a demand from several national and international partners for an Arctic safety center.

The purpose is to contribute to as safe and sustainable human activity in the high Arctic as possible and the deliverables are as follows:

  • A Master programme in Arctic Safety
  • Practical safety courses for industry, academia, residents of Longyearbyen
  • New knowledge, theory, and models


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Direktelink til webinaret “Sikkerhet på tur på 90 minutter”

Nyttige lenker til informasjon om feltforhold (PDF)



29 March 2021
Ready, biip, green – have a safe trip!
Many locals and tourists on Svalbard are looking for great outdoor experiences in the Arctic, and Easter is high season for snowmobile- and ski trips. An information board with weather forecast, avalanche warning and beacon-check aims to contribute to increased awareness before people go into the wild. 

Read more here

Weather board in Adventdalen

The avalanche forecast is 3 – considerable. Do you know how to avoid dangerous terrain, and what signs to look for? Photo: Maria Philippa Rossi/UNIS

23 March 2021
Webinar: Sikkerhet på tur på 90 minutter!
Thursday 25 March at 18:00 the Arctic Safety Centre and UNIS will arrange a webinar in collaboration with partners in Longyearbyen on safe travels during the upcoming Easter break. The webinar will be in Norwegian, recorded from Longyearbyen Kulturhus and can be watched at a later time.

Find more information and details on the webinar here. 

11 March 2021
Welcome to the second Arctic Safety Conference!
The second conference will be in Longyearbyen 9-11  November 2021. The main theme of the conference is “Arctic safety – best practices and scientific knowledge,” and concerns practitioners’ experiences with safety in the Arctic as well as the research frontier in Arctic safety. Registration opens 1 May. Call for abstracts is out – deadline for submission is 15 June.

See all details on the conference webpage. 

Øvelse i Billefjorden

Photo: Stefan Claes/UNIS.

10 March 2021
Arctic Safety special issue out now
The Arctic Safety Centre at UNIS has compiled a special issue on Arctic safety in the journal Safety Science. The aim is to contribute to the current body of knowledge on Arctic safety as well as to bring more attention to both safety research as well as safety practice in the Arctic.

Read more here

Ship in ice in Svalbard

A ship in ice covered waters around Svalbard. Photo: Malin Daase/UNIS.

21 December 2020
RCN grants 12 million to Arctic Safety Centre project
The Research Council of Norway (RCN) has granted NOK 12 million to the Arctic Safety Centre project “Risk governance, early warning and climate change adaptation in the Arctic”, to develop better knowledge about assessment, monitoring and management of a comprehensive risk picture that is changing as a result of climate change. The Arctic Safety Centre project at UNIS is a collaboration with NTNU, and several local actors such as Longyearbyen Lokalstyre, the Governor of Svalbard, Telenor Svalbard and others. Project leader is Professor Eirik Albrechtsen, NTNU and UNIS. The project includes funding for two temporary full-time research positions at UNIS. In addition, researchers from NTNU Social Research, SINTEF and the University of Stavanger who have expert knowledge in risk assessment, management and social safety participate.

Read the full article

Longyearbyen in dark season

Longyearbyen in the dark season. Photo: Emil Söderlund/UNIS.

26 November 2020
Avalanche accident report in English published
An English version of the accident report on the tragic avalanche accident on Fridtjovbreen in February 2020, has now been published. The Arctic Safety Centre at UNIS has been in charge of both the Norwegian and English version of the report.

Read the full article

The snow avalanche on Fridtjovbreen on 20 February 2020 killed two people. Photo: The Governor of Svalbard.

The snow avalanche on Fridtjovbreen on 20 February 2020 killed two people. Photo: The Governor of Svalbard.


13 November 2020
First Arctic Safety Centre continuing education course
The Arctic Safety Centre pilot course with 25 places was already fully booked within two days after it was announced. With 50 applicants for the course, it indicates that UNIS has a potential for this type of course in the future.

Read the full article

Lecture in the Møysalen auditorium at UNIS in Longyearbyen

The first continuing education course lectures at UNIS earlier this week. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

23 October 2020
Snow sensor project exported to the mainland
The snow sensor project, a collaboration between UNIS, the Arctic Safety Centre and Telenor Svalbard, has been so successful that Nordkapp municipality in mainland Norway has decided to test the system out in the town of Honningsvåg.

Read the full news article here

Using a laser scanning in Honningsvåg

UNIS used a terrestrial laser scanner in Honningsvåg to advice the local authorities on where they should place the snow sensors. Photo: Sara Mollie Cohen/UNIS.

16 October 2020

Arctic Safety Centre instruction on the mainland
These are busy days for the staff at the Arctic Safety Centre (ASC) and UNIS, not in Longyearbyen but in mainland Norway. This week and in the following weeks staff will conduct safety training and install the snow sensor projected on the mainland.

This week acting leader of ASC, Martin Indreiten and UNIS staff engineer Bård Helge Strand have been in Alta instructing the University of Tromsø’s Arctic Nature Guide students in polar bear protection measures. Martin will also introduce the students to management and risk management.

Next week will be exciting as well. The snow sensor project extends from Longyearbyen to Honningsvåg, Nordkapp municipality! Martin Indreiten and UNIS head engineer Sara Mollie Cohen will help start up the snow sensor project in Honningsvåg. The snow sensor project, a collaboration between UNIS, ASC and Telenor Svalbard, has been so successful that Nordkapp municipality has decided to test the system out in the town of Honningsvåg.

In addition, Martin Indreiten will be at the Norwegian Mountain Center and the National Competence Center for Mountain Rescue and hold a lecture on climate change and the impact on local rescue services in mid-November.

Busy weeks ahead in other words!

Instructor from UNIS teach Arctic Nature Guide students how to handle a rifle. Photo: Martin Indreiten/UNIS.

Instructors from the Arctic Safety Centre and UNIS teach Arctic Nature Guide students in Alta polar bear protection measures. Photo: Martin Indreiten/UNIS.


7 October 2020
New report on avalanche warning in Svalbard
The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate has together with UNIS (ASC) and the University in Tromsø written a report on the avalanche warning in Svalbard.

Svalbard has an extensive avalanche problem and seven people died in avalanches from 2000 to 2018. To mitigate the problem, the Norwegian Avalanche Warning Service included public avalanche warnings for Svalbard on in February 2016. To assist evacuations by local authorities, local warnings for Longyearbyen were started as a temporary measure days after the fatal accident in December 2015, when an avalanche hit ten buildings. This report presents the methods, organisation, and results associated with establishing the two avalanche warning services on Svalbard. We discuss lessons learned in terms of collaboration, risk management, specific challenges in the Arctic, due to climate changes and the event of an avalanche hitting two buildings in February 2017.


The local Red Cross observes an avalanche area in Svalbard

The local Red Cross observes avalanches in Svalbard. Photo: Margrete N.S. Keyser/Regobs.

28 September 2020
Popular polar bear safety course
Last week, the Arctic Safety Centre in collaboration with UNIS arranged a polar bear safety course for the locals in Longyearbyen. Feedback from the course participants was very positive and next course is planned for October and will focus on safe behaviour in glacier landscapes.

Read article here

27 March 2020
Arctic Safety Conference postponed from 2020 to 2021
Due to the COVID-19 virus and the measures implemented around the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding it in the coming months, the Arctic Safety Center has decided to postpone this year’s conference to May 2021. Information on registration, deadlines for presentations and articles will be announced after the summer.

18 March 2020
“Koronadugnaden” (The Corona Duty) – postpone your most ambitious trip plans
Now that the corona pandemic is upon us, we must all avoid burdening the local rescue service and the hospital with unnecessary accidents. Take easy and safe trips in the immediate area and do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. Think through your choices and join the community duty. In the end, your choices can affect an entire community, Arctic Safety Centres Martin Indreiten and Bjørn Ivar Kruke write in this article.

Read the full article here

Photo: Frozen Five.

2 September 2019
First master course of safety package arranged
On 5 August 12 eager and ambitious students started with the first master course, AS-302 Safety Management in the Arctic (10 ECTS), of the master packages within the Arctic Safety Centre.

The main focus of the course was prevention of accidents and unwanted occurrences that may lead to loss of life in the Arctic. The students were provided with knowledge, skills and competence in designing and running safety management systems in an Arctic context. After the course, students will be able to apply different methods and tools for generation of knowledge about past, current and future safety performance for activities and systems in the Arctic. Based on the theoretical foundations and the methods and tools, they shall be able to suggest adequate safety measures to control Arctic hazards.  As you see from the pictures below the combination of practical knowledge about Arctic operations and Arctic hazards and theoretical understanding of safety management is emphasized in the course.

Arctic safety centre

The course has collaborated with local partners in Longyearbyen as well as scientific departments at UNIS.

Arctic safety centre

Eirik Albrechtsen

According to course responsible professor Eirik Albrechtsen the students have been very motivated and enthusiastic. They have learned to prevent accidents in the Arctic by gaining knowledge regarding methods and tools for better understanding of the Arctic risk picture. The students have been given presentations from local partners such as the Longyearbyen local community council  and Hurtigruten Svalbard. They have also collaborated with scientific departments and logistical department at UNIS.





Truls Kappe Pettersen

According to student Truls Kappe Pettersen this first master course has been a success. He is a student at University of Stavanger where he is a master student within Risk management and societal safety. He has signed on for all three master courses and will stay at UNIS for a full semester.  According to Truls, the course managed to link both theory and practice and his expectations for the course have been fulfilled. He has a tentative plan to continue with his master theses either at UNIS or in close collaboration with UNIS.


24 November 2018
Several members of the staff participated in the lunch meeting arranged by the Arctic Safety Centre 23 November. The goal for this lunch meeting was to have a discussion regarding how UNIS’ scientific, logistical and administrative staff would like to contribute to and collaborate with the activities in the Arctic Safety Centre. The engagement was good and several good ideas were brought forward.

Photo: Ann Christin Auestad/UNIS

Photo: Ann Christin Auestad/UNIS

22 November 2018
Mandag 19. til onsdag 21. november arrangerte Arctic Safety Centre (ASC) tre sikkerhetsseminarer. Temaene som ble gjennomgått var sikkerhet og dyresykdommer på Svalbard, isbjørnsikkerhet og ferdsel i skredutsatt terreng sikkerhet. Den tredje kvelden var en praktisk kveld med fokus på hvordan opptre og unngå konflikter med isbjørn. ASC vil takke bidragsyterne fra Norsk Polarinstitutt, Sysselmannen på Svalbard, UiT Arctic Nature Guide, Veterinærinstituttet og UNIS. Tilsammen deltok nærmere 170 personer på de tre kveldene.

30 October 2018
Report from the pilot course “Safety Course for Arctic Field Stations” 1–8 October 2018
From 1–8 October 2018, ten highly qualified and experienced researchers attended the Safety Course for Arctic Field Station leaders.
During this week, the participants got introductions and training regarding roles and responsibilities and they trained on cold climate and navigation. Safety in relation to wildlife was a subject and the participants also practiced on polar bear protection. A day on glacier awareness and rescue was also carried out. All this was done while staying in a camp in Ymerbukta in Svalbard. After some days in camp the course continued in Longyearbyen and the subjects there were risk assessment in relation to first aid, cold climate challenges, challenges related to working environment in remote locations, snowmobiles and safety and ended with maritime safety and training. The participants also created training scenarios for field stations related to the role of a station leader. It was an interactive course were the participants contributed with sharing of experiences and competence. The engaged group of participants was key to the learning outcome of the pilot course.

All photos by Ann Christin Auestad/UNIS:

30 July 2018
Report from the first Arctic Safety course

During June 2018, 17 students completed the first MSc-level course within the Arctic Safety Centre at UNIS. AS-301 Risk Assessment of Arctic Natural Hazards is a multidisciplinary course on natural hazards in Arctic environments with focus on Svalbard. In a rapidly changing Arctic that experiences increased population and touristic pressures, risk assessment of natural hazards threatening people’s lives and key infrastructure becomes essential.

The MSc students with diverse backgrounds spanning from geography, risk management and environmental sciences gained analytical knowledge and process understanding of weather (extreme weather, climate change), slope (avalanches, landslides), bio (polar bears, parasites, environmental pollutants), and cryohazards (glaciers, icebergs, permafrost) in an Arctic context.

The very diverse subjects were taught by UNIS staff and adjunct staff who are experts within their respective fields, introducing the students to basic concepts as well as guiding them through exercises and hands-on fieldwork.

Highlight of the course was a two-day excursion to Pyramiden with a day spent on Nordenskioldbreen were the natural hazards of glacier dynamics, crevasse formation and iceberg production for travel over glaciers and at sea were presented in the field.

The entire last week of the course was reserved for practical group risk management projects. Four groups gathered data and information about a range of projects spanning from the risk assessment of building infrastructure in areas with warming permafrost and coastal erosion to the inherent snow avalanche risk in Nybyen. The results were then presented in a formal poster presentation session that acted also as the main exam of the course.

After completing the first AS-301 course, the students left with gained awareness and appreciation of current research issues and practical challenges concerning Arctic natural hazards in a changing climate together with an ability to evaluate the risk, communicate it in an informed way and lead or be part of a diverse group carrying out a risk management project.

All photos by Thorben Dunse/UNIS:

28 June 2018

Two students from the very first AS-301 course, summer 2018. Photo: Ann Christin Auestad/UNIS

Two students from the very first AS-301 course, summer 2018. Photo: Ann Christin Auestad/UNIS

We talked to two students from the first course in the Arctic Safety Centre; Heidur Thorisdottir and Zuzanna Kochanowicz from Island and Canada, and they think it is a good opportunity to be students at UNIS and the Arctic Safety Centre. The fieldwork has been especially interesting. The student environment has been excellent and they have made friends from all over the world. They are both staying here in Svalbard over the summer and are fascinated with the Svalbard nature and outdoor possibilities. They are looking forward to the next master courses in the Arctic Safety Centre and hope that they may fit with their master programme.





22 June 2018
Arctic Safety Conference 2019
We are planning the first Arctic Safety Conference, an international conference that will take place in Longyearbyen 13–15 May 2019. Read more about the aim and planned themes of the conference here.

7 June 2018
The first students are here!
The course AS-301 Risk Assessment of Arctic Natural Hazards has started and we are happy to welcome the students to UNIS! 16 highly motivated students from Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Canada are attending the course. Their backgrounds range from geography, physics and environmental sciences to energy, climate change and risk management.

All photos by Ann Christin Auestad/UNIS:

15 January 2018
New course: AS-301 Risk Assessment of Arctic Natural Hazards
This is a 10 ECTS, 5 weeks Master course which will run in June–July 2018. Deadline for application is 15 February 2018.
This course appreciates the multidisciplinary and multifaceted nature of natural hazards in Arctic environments, with focus on Svalbard. In a rapidly changing Arctic that experiences increased population and touristic pressures, risk assessment of natural hazards threatening people’s lives and key infrastructure becomes essential. A theoretical foundation will be followed by four applied modules in weather hazards, slope hazards, biohazards, and cryohazards.
Admission requirements: Enrolment in a relevant master programme in natural sciences, environmental sciences, or technology.

3–4 May 2017
The third steering committee meeting for Arctic Safety Centre, UNIS, Longyearbyen

All partners of the project were presented during the two-day session. During the session the group discussed progress and development of the project. Group leaders for the 4 working groups were present the first day to present status and progress for the work. Plans for future work were also discussed. The engagement from the participants was good and several good and important action points were highlighted.

Arctic Safety Centre steering committee, May 2017

In the photo, from left: Head of Operations and logistics department John Guldahl (NPI), Senior Executive Consultant Morten Rasch (University of Copenhagen), Senior Advisor Thor Bjørn Arlov (NTNU), Managing Director Harald Ellingsen (UNIS), Departmental leader Hanne H. Christiansen (UNIS), President Lars Kullerud (UArctic), Project manager Ann Christin Auestad (UNIS), Head of department Yngve Birkelund (UiT). Photo: Nina Mosesen Hansen/UNIS

5 January 2017
Gemini has written a news article (in Norwegian) about the Arctic Safety Centre, you may read it here.

17–19 November 2016
Arctic Safety Centre Workshop at UNIS, Longyearbyen
The 17–19th of November a workshop for the project Arctic Safety Centre was performed. The purpose for the workshop was to draft an outline for a pilot subject that shall run at UNIS in 2018. The target group for this pilot subject is natural science master students. Our ambition is that the subject shall be included as a part of the Arctic safety Centre subject portfolio within “Arctic safety” when the Centre is established. The workshop started with short presentations from partners and stakeholders regarding possible areas that should be part of a pilot subject. We were also given time to discuss the different natural science areas and how they in a best possible way should be utilized in an Arctic safety context.

Workshop participants

Workshop participants: Jim Parsons, Academic Director Master of Maritime Management, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Aleksey Marchenko, Professor in Ice Mechanics, UNIS, Sara Cohen, Staff Engineer Arctic Geology, UNIS, Chris Borstad, Associate Professor of Snow and Ice Physics, UNIS, Marius Jonassen, Associate Professor Meteorology, UNIS, Nataly Marchenko, Researcher Arctic Technology, UNIS, Ann Christin Auestad, Project Manager ASC, UNIS, Sarah Strand, International Permafrost Association Secretariat, UNIS, Lena Rubensdotter, Adjunct Professor of Quaternary Geology, UNIS, Hanne Christiansen, Professor of Physical Geography, Department Leader Arctic Geology, UNIS, Holt Hancock, PhD Candidate Snow Science, UNIS, Dominik Lang, Head of Department of Earthquake and Hazard Risk, NORSAR, Graham Gilbert, PhD Candidate Permafrost, UNIS, Markus Eckerstorfer, Research Scientist, NORUT, Mike Retelle, Adjunct Professor of Geology, UNIS, (seated:) Mads Forchhammer, Professor of Terrestrial Zoology, UNIS, Abbas Barabadi, Associate in Engineering and Safety, University of Tromsø, and Frede Lamo, Head Engineer in Materials/Field, UNIS.

 7–8 November 2016
The second steering committee meeting for Arctic Safety Centre, UNIS, Longyearbyen

All partners of the project were presented during the two days session. During the session the group discussed progress and development of the project and especially progress from working groups. Plans for future work were also discussed. The engagement from the participants was good.

Arctic Safety Centre meeting, November 2016. From left: Hanne H. Christiansen (UNIS), Ann Christin Auestad (UNIS), Fred Skancke Hansen (UNIS), Harald Ellingsen (UNIS), John Guldahl (NPI), Morten Rasch (University of Copenhagen), Lard Kullerud (UArctic), Thor Bjørn Arlov (NTNU).

In the photo, from left: Departmental leader Hanne H. Christiansen (UNIS), Project manager Ann Christin Auestad (UNIS), Director of HSE and Infrastructure Fred S. Hansen (UNIS), Managing Director Harald Ellingsen (UNIS), Head of Operations and logistics department John Guldahl (NPI), Senior Executive Consultant Morten Rasch (University of Copenhagen), President Lars Kullerud (UArctic) and Senior Advisor Thor Bjørn Arlov (NTNU). Photo: Inger Lise Næss/UNIS

26–28 October 2016
A collaboration meeting has been performed between NTNU, the University of Stavanger and UiT the Arctic University of Norway. The ambition was to establish the academic content for the risk and safety theory master/bachelor programme. The meeting was a success and good progress was made.

20 October 2016
Work group four has performed a workshop to continue the work regarding the GAP analyses and to prepare an action plan for further progress. The engagement was good and several good initiatives were identified.
The partners in the group are: The Norwegian Polar Institute, Longyearbyen Red Cross, Longyearbyen Community Council, Spitsbergen Travel, Telenor, Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions and UNIS.

September 2016
The Arctic Safety Centre is pleased to welcome the University of Stavanger and UiT the Arctic University of Norway as new partners in the project.

7–8 September 2016
Work group one has performed its first workshop regarding identifying the risk and safety theory to be included as a 60 credit master/bachelor programme at UNIS. The objective for this workshop was to complete the GAP analyses and to establish an action plan for identification of activities for further progress. The group completed the action plan and was pleased with the collaboration within the group.
The partners in the group are: The Norwegian Polar Institute, UArctic, Memorial University of Newfoundland, NTNU and UNIS.

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