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Understanding the Role of AOVs in Fire Safety: Everything You Need to Know

Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs) are crucial components in modern fire safety systems. Their primary role is to enhance the safety of building occupants by providing a controlled and efficient means of smoke ventilation during a fire. This article delves into the function, benefits, and regulatory requirements associated with AOVs, shedding light on why they are indispensable for fire safety.

What Are AOVs?

Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs) are devices installed in buildings to facilitate the automatic opening of windows, doors, or vents in response to a fire. These systems are designed to operate when triggered by smoke detectors or fire alarms, allowing smoke and hot gases to escape from the building. By doing so, they help to maintain clear escape routes, improve visibility, and reduce the overall temperature within the affected area.

How Do AOVs Work?

AOVs are integrated into a building's fire detection and alarm system. When smoke is detected, the system sends a signal to the AOVs, prompting them to open. This automatic opening creates a path for smoke to exit the building, typically through the roof or upper parts of the walls. The vents can be either naturally ventilated, relying on buoyancy and wind, or mechanically assisted with fans to enhance smoke extraction.

Key Components:

  1. Smoke Detectors: Detect the presence of smoke and trigger the AOVs.
  2. Control Panels: Coordinate the opening of vents in response to signals from smoke detectors.
  3. Actuators: Mechanisms that physically open the vents when activated.

Benefits of AOVs

Improved Evacuation

One of the primary benefits of AOVs is that they keep escape routes such as corridors and stairwells clear of smoke. This improves visibility and air quality, enabling occupants to evacuate safely and quickly.

Enhanced Firefighter Access

By venting smoke and heat, AOVs create safer conditions for firefighters to enter the building and carry out rescue operations. Clearer airways and reduced temperatures allow for more effective firefighting efforts.

Compliance with Safety Standards

Installing AOVs helps buildings comply with stringent fire safety regulations and building codes. This not only enhances occupant safety but also reduces the risk of legal liabilities and potential fines for non-compliance.

Property Protection

By controlling the spread of smoke and heat, AOVs can help minimise damage to the building and its contents. This can significantly reduce repair costs and downtime after a fire incident.

Types of AOV Systems

Natural Ventilation Systems

Natural AOV systems rely on the natural buoyancy of hot smoke to rise and exit through strategically placed vents. These systems are typically simpler and more cost-effective but may be less effective in complex building layouts.

Mechanical Ventilation Systems

Mechanical AOV systems use fans to actively extract smoke from the building. These systems are more powerful and can be precisely controlled to manage smoke in larger or more complex structures.

Hybrid Systems

Hybrid systems combine elements of both natural and mechanical ventilation. They offer the flexibility of natural ventilation with the enhanced performance of mechanical assistance, providing a balanced approach to smoke control.

Regulatory Requirements

UK Building Regulations

In the UK, Building Regulations Approved Document B sets out the requirements for fire safety, including smoke ventilation. AOVs must comply with these standards to ensure they provide adequate protection in the event of a fire.

BS EN 12101

The British Standard BS EN 12101 provides detailed specifications for smoke and heat control systems, including AOVs. Compliance with this standard ensures that AOVs meet high-performance criteria and are reliable in emergency situations.

Local Authority Guidelines

Local authorities may have additional guidelines and requirements for the installation and maintenance of AOVs. It is essential to consult with local fire safety authorities to ensure full compliance with all relevant regulations.

Smoke kills twice as many people as fire

Smoke control is a crucial life safety system. That’s why you need to make sure your AOVs are regularly maintained by competent people, who should have 3rd party certification.

Smoke is different to fire

Although clearly related to fire, smoke control systems demand specific and specialist maintenance experts.

Installation and Maintenance

Professional Installation

Proper installation of AOVs is critical to their effectiveness. It is recommended to engage certified professionals, such as G.S Stothers, who have experience with fire safety systems to ensure that AOVs are correctly integrated into the building’s infrastructure.

Regular Maintenance

Like all safety systems, AOVs require regular maintenance to ensure they remain functional. This includes routine inspections, testing, and servicing as specified by the manufacturer and regulatory standards.

The Role of G.S Stothers in AOV Systems

G.S Stothers Smoke Ventilation Specialists have over four decades of expertise in the design, installation, and maintenance of smoke ventilation systems, including AOVs. Our commitment to excellence and adherence to stringent safety standards make us a trusted partner for ensuring building safety.

Expertise and Experience

Our team at G.S Stothers has extensive experience in implementing AOV systems across various building types. We understand the critical role these systems play in fire safety and work meticulously to ensure they operate flawlessly.

Comprehensive Solutions

We provide a full suite of services, from initial design and consultation to installation and ongoing maintenance. Our solutions are tailored to meet the specific needs of each building, ensuring optimal performance and compliance with all relevant regulations.

Commitment to Safety

As members of the Smoke Control Association and holders of various industry accreditations, we are dedicated to maintaining the highest standards of safety and reliability in all our projects. Our focus is on delivering cutting-edge smoke ventilation solutions that protect lives and property.


Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs) are integral to modern fire safety strategies, providing essential smoke control and improving overall building safety. Their ability to facilitate safe evacuation, enhance firefighter access, and comply with regulatory standards underscores their importance. By partnering with experienced professionals like G.S Stothers Smoke Ventilation Specialists, building owners can ensure that their AOV systems are expertly installed and maintained, providing robust protection against the dangers of smoke during a fire. Contact us today to book a site survey.

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