General quarters was a command to prepare for battle that dated back to early naval tradition.
By the 23rd century, the term had been adopted by Starfleet for use aboard Federation starships as a stage of red alert to describe a ship's condition of maximum readiness. The general quarters order was typically issued as a call for all hands to man their battle stations, but could also vary in state by a number of conditions. By the late-24th century, usage of this alert was phased out in favor of more specific alerts for various situations, such as yellow alert, red alert, security alert, and intruder alert.
Conditions of general quarters
- Security Condition Three indicated that ship's security had been compromised and an intruder was aboard the ship. This was otherwise known as "security alert three" or "intruder alert". (TOS: "The Man Trap", "Dagger of the Mind", "The Lights of Zetar") General quarters was sounded under this security condition in 2366 on the USS Enterprise-D. (TNG: "The Hunted", "The High Ground")
- Security Condition Four ordered all halls to be sealed off and all weapons to be accounted for and locked away on all levels of the ship. (TOS: "The Man Trap")
- Alert Condition Baker Two was an alert used on Starfleet vessels when confrontations among the crewmembers on a starship increased to the point where security became involved. In 2266, the crew of the USS Enterprise were under the influence of polywater intoxication. Security reported to Lieutenant Uhura that incidents among crew members of the Enterprise were growing. First Officer Commander Spock had Uhura declare Alert Condition Baker Two over the ship's intercom. (TOS: "The Naked Time")
|Colored alerts:||Red • Double Red • Yellow • Blue • Gray • Black • Green|
|General alerts:||Battle stations • "Brace for impact" • Emergency stations • General quarters|
|Battle • Evacuation • Fire • Intruder • Perimeter • Proximity • Security • Standby • Tactical • Visitor|
In the script for "Encounter at Farpoint", the bugle call "Beat to Quarters" was heard on the USS Enterprise-D bridge as the crew prepared the starship for saucer separation. The script notes that this call was preserved from "surface ship days."
The Star Fleet Intelligence Manual: Agent's Orientation Sourcebook gives six official levels of general quarters and one unofficial. General quarters 1, for instance, always occurred during a yellow alert.