DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — New software and a mobile app will enable Des Moines teachers to immediately respond to emergencies, alert other staffers and lock down doors.

The $9,000 Alertus software notifies the district's public safety office and other staff on campus about an emergency, The Des Moines Register reported . It operates similarly to how a bank teller can alert police to a situation by using a panic button.

The system can send text-to-speech messages over public-announcement systems and electronically lock doors, said Cameron Wohlgemuth, a senior sales manager at Alertus.

"Safety is always one of our priorities, and this supplements the usual means of communications with a tool that more quickly shares information with our staff when time can be of the essence," said Phil Roeder, a district spokesman.

Calling 911 is still the preferred way to seek help, but the new software is an added layer of security, said Pam Rosa, the safety specialist for Des Moines Public Schools.

The software also handles severe weather alerts, a feature that could be particularly useful to staff supervising recess or on a field trip, Rosa said.

A version of the software will also be made available to contractors who work in school buildings.

The system's implementation comes after Iowa passed a law this spring requiring schools to create emergency plans on responding to threats, such as a shooter or a tornado. The bill passed in the wake of a school shooting that left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com