LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The city of Los Angeles is teaming up with a renowned U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist to help prepare for its next major earthquake, officials announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes as the city gets ready to mark the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake.

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“The shaking caused 57 deaths, 33 from fallen buildings, and more than 9,000 people were injured, more than 20,000 people displaced, and approximately 40,000 buildings were damaged,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Garcetti said the partnership with Dr. Lucy Jones will work to develop earthquake resilience strategies for the city, including recommendations to address vulnerabilities in water delivery and communications infrastructure, firefighting capability, and private and government owned buildings.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” said Garcetti.

Over the next few months, Dr. Jones will consult with other technical experts, convene public meetings and hold additional discussions with businesses, property owners and other stakeholders, the mayor’s office announced.

Jones, who said Los Angeles County represents a quarter of the earthquake risk faced in the country, said the region could face widespread devastation in the event of a massive quake similar to — or stronger than — the one that struck the Northridge area on Jan. 17, 1994.

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“We know that we have hundreds of thousands of buildings that will not be able to be occupied. We know that we will have substantial fires; we know we will be seeing breaking of the water system,” Jones said. “We’ve put 10 million people on top of 100 faults.”

The Northridge quake sparked more than 110 fires throughout the city and Jones said another, bigger quake would spark even more.

“We can’t eliminate all risk, nobody can do that with earthquakes, but what we can do is recognize the areas that have the greatest potential impact, and find the solutions that don’t themselves take out the economy of Los Angeles before we get to the earthquake,” she said.

After receiving a “statement of problems and consequences” from the city, Jones will begin in February to gather input from the public and expert consultations for a draft of recommendations due in August.

Jones has been a seismologist with the USGS and a visiting research associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech since 1983. She is currently the Science Advisor for Risk Reduction in the USGS Natural Hazards Mission Area, innovating the application of hazards science to increase the nation’s resilience to natural disasters.

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