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Fire department gets new data system

Warren officials estimate software could increase annual revenue by $75,000

By Linwood Outlaw III - loutlaw@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- After hearing that the Department of Fire and Rescue has possibly lost out on tens of thousands of dollars due to missing incident reports, the Warren County Board of Supervisors has approved the purchase of new data reporting software for the agency to help employees keep better track of activities for billing purposes.

The department has had trouble maintaining its existing data system, and its complexity has contributed to a backlog of reports that are not properly being filed, Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie said.

Mabie says the fire department is missing more than 200 incident reports that need to be billed, which has resulted in lost funds. Mabie says the new reporting system may increase annual revenue by about $75,000, a figure that he says is a rough estimate based on "the amount of reports that we're missing in the system right now, which go back over a year.

"We could never know [for sure] exactly what the insurance company was going to pay," Mabie said. "But, we estimate somewhere in that ballpark because these are calls that we can't bill."

Mabie said when incident reports are termed "missing," it doesn't mean that the records are not attainable or on file anywhere within the department, but rather they are not readily accessible and properly filed. The new software program, he says, will reduce the number of missing reports, "resulting in more being billed."

Mabie said the cumbersome system currently used by the agency led to the backlog.
"It's not as user-friendly as we actually thought it was," Mabie said. "It was projected to be a Web-based system, and it's not a true Web-based [system]. The records were actually kept on servers, and we were having problems with the server going down. And, when the server goes down, you can't get on the program to do a report. What ends up happening is, a lot of times, if you can't get online to do the report right away, because of the system being down or what have you, then it gets taken back to the firehouse ... and then it never gets done."

The request for new ImageTrend software that was unanimously approved by the supervisors on Dec. 7 will not require any newly appropriated funds. Mabie says the $39,900 needed to buy the software can be taken from the fire department's cost recovery account, which county officials used last month to fund two temporary, part-time positions at the South Warren and Front Royal fire companies in order to help out with volunteer staffing shortages.

The fire department's cost recovery program budget includes funding that is made available by billing patient insurance companies for hospital transports by ambulance. The funds are sometimes used to reimburse stations for expenses associated with emergency medical services, such as fuel and supplies not provided by an emergency room.

Mabie said the new software will be much easier to use and will make the fire department's required reporting to the state more efficient. The system also will be expandable for tablet use in EMS units, will minimize the need for faxes and allow staff to file reports from anywhere that has an Internet connection.

"What we're signing on to is a true, Web-based system," Mabie said.

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