IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 72

of a disaster, and remains able to deliver services like
electricity and communication, are valuable assets for
aid delivery. Distributed energy technologies, such as
microgrids, offer considerable utility, as they can provide reliable electricity supply in the wake of disasters,
facilitating recovery efforts [13].
An effective mobilization of relief efforts requires a
deep understanding of the nature of the hazard event
and the circumstances of the affected community [21].
One popular approach to effectively mobilize relief are
hub-and-spoke networks [22]. Hub-and-spoke networks
are characterized by a centralized inventory repository
hub and a number of routes or spokes that serve as distribution channels. Hub-and-spoke networks play a critical role in the distribution of goods and services under
nondisaster circumstances [23]. Given the importance
of the hub, managers tend to design fortifications to the
network that ensure their continuous operation. In
disaster circumstances, the hub can serve to receive,
consolidate, store, and dispatch relief supplies. For
example, the United States Armed Forces utilized the
hub and spoke model to deliver aid in Honduras after a
hurricane affected the local population. The hub was
used to receive, consolidate, and deploy food, clothing,
and medicine received from the United States, and
onward movement to nearby villages (the spokes) were
carried out via helicopter [24].

Antifragility Implications
Disasters occur across a range of severities. With more
severe disasters come greater effects to the impacted
communities, prompting greater need for relief supplies
[25]. As such, an operational hub increases in value as
the severity of the disaster increases. The microgrid
coupled with the hub will exhibit antifragility in its ability to continue to operate and potentially serve as a distribution channel for disaster relief.
Assuming all other primary functions of the hub
remain operable, the scale of microgrid antifragility can
thus be appreciated. Primarily, in its value created by
Microgrid
Value

0

rid y
og gilit
r
c
i
M tifra
An

+Value
-Value
Grid and Microgrid
Operational

Microgrid
Operational

Grid
Inoperable

FIGURE 1. Microgrid antifragility.

72

No
Service

Microgrid
Inoperable

Disaster
Severity

remaining operational against increasing disaster severity, the more severe the disaster, the more valuable the
microgrid. The point of disaster severity where both the
microgrid and the broader grid cease to operate represents the upper limit of microgrid antifragility. In the
most severe cases, the antifragility of the microgrid is
overwhelmed and both technologies are rendered inoperable. In these situations, the severity of the disaster is
such that no available technology is capable of withstanding the disaster and affected populations are left
without service (see Figure 1).

Ethical Implications of Microgrids
in Disaster Management
Disasters affect populations in many ways that require
external intervention in the form of aid. Unconstrained
contact with affected populations is the primary principle
driving disaster management ethics [26]. Disasters tend
to force aid providers into complex situations, where the
ethical foundations of routine care provision are threatened [27]. One important cause for the violation of deontological principles during disasters are the scarcity of
resources [26]. The nature of disasters commonly places
considerable constraints on the capacity of infrastructure
to transport and deliver aid to affected populations. Such
constraints force aid providers to make decisions about
aid rationing, triage, and awarding of authority, with great
ethical consequences [28] and in extreme situations,
requiring drastic decisions in a short period of time [26].
Classical philosophical arguments about disasters
originate in "lifeboat ethics," and raise questions about
whether utilitarian or deontological stances are best suited [29]. From a utilitarian perspective, ethical concerns
arise when a scarcity of resources (e.g., supplies, time) relative to demand give rise to appreciable differences
between choices and their outcomes [26]. Drawing on an
example from triage in armed conflict [30], an egalitarian
approach to the allocation of scarce resources will largely
ignore differences among aid recipients (e.g., rank, age).
In contrast, an efficient utilitarian triage approach will
evaluate each potential aid recipient, selecting those who
will be useful toward continuing the armed conflict effort
as the first to receive care. The deontological perspective
toward evaluating the permissibility of actions, for the
most part, provides rules that guide moral thought and
action [26]. During disasters, the extreme nature of circumstances may permit abandoning such rules. For
example, when aid resources are scarce, the ethical
norms developed in normal settings may be vulnerable to
the stressors that arise in disaster settings. In those
cases, the right decisions will depend on the degree of
confidence that can be placed in the aid providers [26].
Alternatively, a utilitarian perspective on aid resources
would largely default to rationing of aid and triage of

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

∕

DECEMBER 2019



IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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