Robert Washington has created a storm shelter app called Shelter Share in order to ensure that no one else had to go through the terrifying shelter-in-place experience he had in 2015 with his newborn daughter in Oklahoma.
Washington recalled that when the May skies darkened that year and the sirens began to sound, he and his family were residing in a two-story apartment building. He was holding his daughter, who was around 6 months old.
“That’s a terrible feeling. I know I’m not the only one that experienced that,” Washington told KFOR. “If you’ve ever been caught in that situation, you don’t know where to go; you have people that depend on you, you have your kids; you have your wife; you have your husband; or whomever. What are we gonna do?”
The entrepreneur told The Black Wall Street Times that the concept for Shelter Share originally began to form in his head at that time, and because of a financial initiative from Builders and Backers, it became a reality by 2022.
The software, which is available for both iOS and Android users to download, connects its users with nearby locations that provide shelter during disasters. They consist of places like public buildings and shelters for the community. Registration and account creation are available to both individuals looking for refuge and those looking to offer it. The app has been under development for 18 months now.
“It is a 1.0 version. Don’t be like, ‘Oh my god. This sucks.’ No. We’re building and adding to it every day, and I’m listening to everyone to make sure it is built correctly,” Washington stated.
Over 2,000 people now use Shelter Share, which began with about 75 participants, although he noted that the number of people in need of refuge exceeds the number of shelters. The program has listed seven storm shelters at the moment, but Washington hopes to develop more organic popularity before tornado season arrives in eight months.
Washington told The Black Wall Street Times that users can make a reservation a day in advance, where they can choose slots that indicate whether a location has a room available.
“I’m hoping it inspires people to be more weather-aware and prepared. There are people out there that are getting injured,” Washington said.
More than 50 Oklahomans died due to a tornado between 2012 and 2022, according to data from the Oklahoman.
Washington has future plans to enhance and add new features to the app, providing both people and their pets with an experience that is comparable to that of AirBnB.