The Public Safety Awards ceremony went on as scheduled Wednesday night, but a key player was missing -- Police Chief Gary MacNamara.

MacNamara had been released from the hospital that morning where he was treated for injured when his police cruiser was struck in a three-car accident Tuesday. Keeping him away from the honors assembly was not easy, Deputy Chief Chris Lyddy said, but joked that handcuffs came in handy.

Lyddy said MacNamara wanted to express his deepest appreciation to all the first responders who came to his aid after his cruiser was struck.

The annual ceremony honors police, firefighters, dispatchers and civilians for acts of bravery, contributions to their departments, dedication and performance.

This year, the event also featured the swearing in of three new police officers and four new firefighters.

The Fire Department, according to Chief Richard Felner, is a family. "We share our days, nights, holidays, meals," he said. "We put our lives in each other's hands."

"For the men and women who face the danger, there's no glamor," Felner said, "just a job to be done."

The Police Department answered 44,000 service calls last year, Lyddy said. "Nestled in those 44,000 calls is an officer's visit to a kindergarten class, a firefighter lifting an elderly resident back into bed when he or she is unable to stand." Those everyday actions, he said, are as important as the more significant response to emergencies.

Among the awards handed out was a unit citation for valor to Assistant Fire Chief Erik Kalapir, Fire Lt. John Cronin and firefighters Todd Erickson, Timothy Firla, Corey Gripp, Scott Iannucci, Thomas Pond and Edwin Riggs III for their response April 20 when an elderly man was pinned between his pickup truck and garage door.

The unit considered a variety of ways to help the man, but finally it was "low-tech brute strength" that firefighters and police officers used to move the truck to free the victim. Police officers, Sgt. Hector Irizarry and Officer Michael Clark, received their department's Chief's Recognition Medal for that incident.

But brute strength was not the only thing recognized.

An autistic teenager found after wandering off prompted Officer Michael Stahl to create a program to assist emergency personnel in locating people who suffer from conditions that make them susceptible to "wandering." For his work to establish the SafeReturn Network, Stahl was awarded the department's Distinguished Service Medal.

The SafeReturn Network allows people to register family members or friends with a database that includes photographs and emergency contact numbers.

Three civilians, Fairfield University professor Wook-Sung Yoo, and students Michael Marrero and Ebenezer Vidal, were also recognized for helping Stahl transform his concept become a reality.

Three other civilians were honored by the Fire Department -- Travis Herman and Landon Storrs for their prompt action in helping to rescue a boater who fell into the cold waters of Southport Harbor, and Christopher Caman, a Cumberland Farms employee who put out a fire that erupted after a car struck other vehicles, gas pumps and the building.

Other awards are:

- FIRE DEPARTMENT

Exceptional Duty Medal: Assistant Chief Scott Bisson.

Joseph S. Elias Meritorius Service Medal: firefighters John Calandriello, Jeffrey DeNitto and William Malkin.

Unit Citation of Valor: Assistant Chief George Gomola, Lt. Leroy Corbo, Lt. Dennis Eannotti, Lt. Justin Greenhaw, Lt. Brian McHugh, firefighters Richard Carlo Jr., Jordan Charney, Dominic Cocchia, Andrew Darrow, Frank DeAngelo, Mark Goletz, Erik Hubbell, Finn MacDaniel, Eric McKeon, Tyler Prescott, Francis Zwierlein, Bisson, Lt. Roger Caisse, Lt. Jeffrey Edmondson, acting Lt. Joseph Galla, firefighters Jonathon Catandella, Craig Crosley, Corey Gripp, Thomas Janik, Thomas Keneally, Ronald Petersen, Robert Petrie, Elijah Riendeau, Thomas Rubenstein, Michael Schumann, Mark Smuda, Gregory Swindon, Lt. Philip Higgins, firefighters Hugh Dolan, Brian Madia, Jeremiah McGuire, Jr., Derek Paules, Kevin Polcer.

David W. Russell Exceptional Medical Service Award: Lt. Robert Smith, Lt. John Cronin, Edmondson, f irefighters Crosley, Galla, David Mitkowski, Petersen, Erik Preteska, Richard Carlo Jr., Craig Vaporis.

- POLICE DEPARTMENT

Distinguished Service Medal: Officer Paul Medvegy, Sgt. Michael Paris.

Chief's Recognition Medal: Sgt. Michael Paris, Officers Jordan Nadeau, Peter Stansfield, Matthew Riendeau, Sgt. Hector Irizarry, Officer Michael Clark.

Unit Citation: Deputy Chief Chris Lyddy, Lt. Michael Gagner, Lt. Christopher Tursi, Irizarry, Sgt. Edward Greene, Sgt. Fred Hine, Sgt. Edward Kovac, Paris, Det. George Buckmir, Det. Jason Takacs, Det. Peter Kocal, Officers Jason Kline, Medvegy, James Pauciello, Thomas Steinke, John Tyler, Jennifer Victoria, Kevin Wells, Frank DiMarco.