PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The University of Oregon will head a new multi-million Cascadia Subduction Zone research facility that scientists say will help communities prepare for potentially disastrous earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

The Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center will receive $15 million in funding from the National Science Foundation to conduct its research and help improve earthquake preparedness during the next five years. Cascadia Region Earthquake Science Center Director Diego Melgar said that the center will help focus earthquake research around the Pacific Northwest.

“The main goal of the center is to bring together the large group of geoscientists working in Cascadia to march together to the beat of a singular drum,” Melgar said. “The center organizes us, focuses collaboration, and identifies key priorities, rather than these institutions competing.”

The center, which is said to be the first of its kind in the U.S., will also use the latest computer technology and artificial intelligence to give scientists a better understanding of when a major subduction zone earthquake might occur and what the effects might look like. UO said that this data will help communities improve infrastructure and create better disaster plans.

“The Cascadia subduction zone has a long history of spurring large earthquakes, but scientists have only started to realize its power within the last few decades,” UO said in its announcement of the new facility. “Research shows that the fault is capable of producing an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 or greater — and communities along the U.S. West Coast are ill-prepared for a quake this powerful. Such an event would set off a cascade of deadly natural hazards in the Cascadia region, from tsunamis to landslides. It could cause buildings and bridges to collapse, disrupt power and gas lines, and leave water supplies inaccessible for months.”