Active & Passive Smoke Ventilation

What are smoke ventilation systems?

A smoke ventilation system is a mechanical solution that controls the movement of smoke in the event of a fire, preventing it from spreading through a building. Smoke ventilation systems are designed to protect the people inside buildings and ensure firefighters can access the premises without suffering smoke related injuries or complications.

As a critical life safety system, it is vital that smoke ventilation solutions are installed and maintained by a competent person with the necessary training and knowledge, in order to ensure optimum performance should a fire break out in the building.

Auto Ventilation mechanics

Passive Smoke Ventilation is seen as the ‘normal’ method of providing ventilation to common corridors and lobby areas. This provides a number of advantages, including reliability, simplicity, low operating noise and low energy use, and often proving to be more cost-effective.

Consisting of opening windows and vents, an automatic opening vent (AOV) or, where there is no external wall, a vertical smoke shaft, Passive Smoke Ventilation systems use the natural forces of the wind and thermal buoyancy (hot air rising and drawing in colder, denser air) to remove smoke from escape routes.

Both active and passive fire safety systems are needed to work together to prevent, detect and alert, restrict and potentially suppress a fire. It is not a case of active fire protection being more effective than passive fire protection, both systems work simultaneously.


Fire alarm systems – well-maintained alarm systems are designed to detect fires early and allow occupants time to evacuate.

Emergency escape lighting – for use in the event of power failure, this should be trigged automatically.

Fire suppression and sprinkler systems – devices containing either CO2, inert gases, foam or water mist.

Smoke ventilation, including automatic vents – allows smoke to escape from a building whilst keeping corridors and stairwells smoke-free.

Disabled refuge areas – essential for assisting disabled people or people with impaired mobility to evacuate in the event of an emergency.

Fire hydrant testing and maintenance – used by Local Fire and Rescue Services to access water from the underground mains supply.

Emergency voice communication systems (EVCS) – a bidirectional, secure duplex voice communication system to assist the fire service in high-rise or large buildings.

Dry and wet risers – valves and pipework to enable the fire service to pump water on to specific floors of multi-story buildings.

Public address voice alarms – often known as a ‘Tannoy’ or PA system, used to provide pre-recorded messages during an evacuation or in the event of an emergency.

Fire hose reels – used by trained individuals or the fire service to contain fires, they require a specific flow rate and water pressure.

Portable fire extinguishers – there are various types of fire extinguishers for use on different types of fires. Training is required in order to learn how to use fire extinguishers properly.