You are currently viewing START? How about TREATS?

START? How about TREATS?

START is the acronym, nay mantra for every decompression and beyond diver. It is supposed to be a brain trigger to help remember the key steps to follow before departing on a deeper or more complex dive. START stands for; S-drills, Team, Air, Route, and Tables. While it’s an important part of technical diving, I’m not a fan, but only because it’s out of order!

Let me break down START before I go on.

Breaking down START.

S – Safety Drill: The safety drill includes a bubble or leak check and a gas sharing drill. When conditions permit, the optimal method for completing this is as follows. Submerge to a depth of approximately six feet and face team members. Each diver (one at a time) will perform a 360-degree helicopter turn in one direction, followed by a 360 degree turn in the opposite direction. During this process, the team will examine the diver’s equipment for leaks.

Primary areas of concern include but are not limited to: first stages, second stages, valves, hoses, inflators, and buoyancy compensators. If bubbles are not detected, signal with an okay and proceed with the drills. If bubbles are detected: ascend, resolve the issue, and repeat the procedure.

After each team member has been examined and found to be bubble-free, conduct the appropriate gas sharing procedure for the equipment configuration style. Conduct this drill as though it were a real gas emergency. Repeat the drill until each team member has acted as a donor and a receiver. Be sure to maintain proper trim and buoyancy at all times.

T – Team: Team stands for team equipment and readiness check. Perform a head-to-toe assessment, confirming that each team member has the necessary equipment, it is functioning properly, and it is properly stowed.

A – Air: Establish and confirm each team member’s turn pressure. Ensure all primary cylinder valves are on and that secondary bottles are full. Validate all maximum operating depths.

R – Route: Review the planned route and the dive objectives.

T – Tables: Review the planned maximum depth, run times, and required stops.

What’s wrong with it?

If you read through the breakdown, then hopefully you’re already seeing the problem: the first thing you’re reminded to do is the last thing you do before taking off on your dive. S-Drills are done after you get into the water, starting with a bubble check, and followed by everyone on the team participating in air-sharing drills.

While this is important, just as all parts of START, as a military boy I really want the acronym to be both a reminder of needs to be done, but also the order in which to do it!

So, I came up with, and recommend a more logical version: TREATS.

Breaking down TREATS.

(1) T-Tables: Review TABLES (planned max depth, run times, and required stops).

Why is this first? In my mind this step is typically done well in advance of the dive when you’re sitting with your crew and talking about the dive goals. The conversation usually begins with the goals of the dive, or the why if you will. Rule number one of deep diving is that you don’t just go to go, you go for a reason. You’re going to look for boats that are rumored to be between 175-181 feet? That just set your depth. Next up is time: how long are you diving yourself to either find, or once you find, to stay at the boats? This sets your bottom time. With this basic information you are able to start planning the entire paper-version of your dive including necessary gasses, mandatory decompression stops, and total dive runtime. 

All of this step is usually performed before you even get to the dive site, with the time for planning increasing based on the technical difficulty of the dive. Deeper and longer dives require more in-depth planning.

(2) R-Route: Review the planned route and the dive objectives.

Route planning is again usually discussed well in advance of the dive. While there can be modifications made to the route once you get to the dive site, they are usually minimal as anything too divergent from the original plan would require going back to check the Tables.

(3) E-Emergencies: conveniently left off the START list, I feel it is extremely important to discuss EMERGENCY alternatives to tables and routes, as well as plans for lost buddies or gas.

Again – not usually done sitting in the water before the dive. As a matter of order, steps one through three, and part of four are usually planned in advance and then written on your dive slates or wet-notes for reference should a dive computer fail you, or your narcosis makes you too loopy to remember the mission.

(4) A-Air: confirm each team member’s turn pressure. All primary tanks valves are open and all MOD’s are double checked. 

See? Now we’re getting to the part of the plan where we have all of our gear set out, if not set up. Checking MOD of all tanks for each diver is what you’re doing BEFORE you get into the water, not after. 

(5) T-Team: Team equipment and readiness check.

Everyone is kitted up and we’re double checking that planned equipment is carried and stowed appropriately, keeping an eye on accessibility as well as trim.

(6) S- Safety: get in the water and perform SAFETY checks including bubble check, and S-drills with air share.

Finally, the last step: you get in the water and check for bubbles, then perform your safety drills. 

Everything is in order.

Maybe there’s a better acronym, but for me living 2.5 hours from my best options for being under water, diving is my TREATS for a week of doctoring well performed. It’s not difficult to remember, and it’s in a logically laid out order of operations. 

It doesn’t just makes sense to me, it’s also the way I teach my divers how to do a basic dive plan. 

What are your thoughts? Will you try using TREATS, or is there a better reason for START that I haven’t considered? Let me know in the comments below and lets get the conversation started!

Doc Strand

An eight year Marine Corps veteran, Dr. Strand discovered Chinese medicine as a last resort when recovering from a military related injury. He has since dedicated his life to the practice of medicine; a doctor to all - a healer to many. In recent years he has turned to SCUBA diving as a meditation aid in his quest for ultimate peace. The desire to share that gift led to the creation of Spartan Scuba. Doc’s experiences and travels abroad impact not only his writing style, but his passion for life, scuba, and medicine.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.