OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – After having a frightening shelter-in-place experience with his newborn daughter in 2015, Robert Washington decided he would create a storm shelter app to make sure no one else had to go through what he did.
Washington lived in a two story apartment complex with his family when the May skies turned dark and the sirens started to ring.
“That’s a terrible feeling. I know I’m not the only one that experienced that,” shared Washington. “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?”
Questions and concerns for others lit a light bulb in Washington’s head.
Washington said he scored an opportunity with a few accelerated programs who helped with getting his idea of a storm shelter app off the ground both financially and physically.
The app is called Shelter Share. It’s available on IOS and Android.
The app allows for private and community shelter owners to open their space to people in need.
“We’re watching the news today. We know a storm’s coming tomorrow. I need to know where I need to go. I can find a place right here,” explained Washington.
Washington told KFOR the app has been a work in progress for 18 months.
“It is a 1.0 version. Don’t be like, ‘Oh my god. This sucks.’ No. We’re building and adding to it everyday and I’m listening to everyone to make sure it is built correctly,” added Washington.
Shelter Share started with more than 250 users and has grown to over 2,000 people in need.
“I do have more people that are seeking shelter than there are shelters,” stated Washington.
Washington explained the app has only been home to seven storm shelters so far, but he’s hoping he can gain more organic traction before tornado season rolls around in eight months.
Washington has gone through a mock version of the app, meaning he found people in his community to pair with shelters he already had on the platform.
He said he wanted to make sure Shelter Share was an app that was of interest before going live with it.
“As I got users it allowed me to listen to them who’d say, ‘Hey we need this or maybe you can add this.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ They are the ones who’s using it,” said Washington.
Washington is hoping to partner with investors, nonprofits, and different cities.
If you’re interested in simply donating or becoming an investor, Washington asks that you email Robert@shelter-share.com.